December 2, 2010

Obama Reinstates Oil Drilling Ban In Some Areas

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Wednesday that the Obama administration will extend a deepwater oil-drilling ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic coast through at least 2017.

The move, which comes in the wake of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is a reversal of two key policy changes the President announced in March.

Salazar said the Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrated that the administration needs "to proceed with caution" on resuming offshore drilling.

"The changes that we are making today really are based on the lessons that we have been learning," he said.

The policy shift partially reverses a decision in October to lift a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that was enacted after the April 20 spill. 

The tragedy, in which the explosion on the BP's Deepwater Horizon rig spewed a record 185 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, crippled fishing and tourism in the Gulf coast states and caused countless damage to the region's fragile eco-system.

However, the new five-year plan would still allow deepwater drilling to continue in the western Gulf of Mexico, where the explosion took place.

President Obama had announced in March a plan to expand oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, drawing protests from environmental groups.

That decision was a reversal of Obama's campaign pledge in 2008, when he argued that lifting curbs on offshore drilling would not be productive enough to justify, and would take years to show a positive impact.