Obama Imposes Seven-Year Drilling Ban In Eastern Gulf Of Mexico
President Obama implemented an oil and gas drilling ban for at least seven years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday.
Offshore drilling will still be permitted in the central and western Gulf of Mexico and part of the Alaskan Arctic, areas where drilling has occurred for some time.
The ban is a response to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf caused when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April, killing 11 people and spilling an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil in the ocean before the broken well was capped. The incident has been labeled as one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
“There will always be risks associated with deep-water drilling...[but] we have reached a point where we have significantly reduced those risks,” said Salazar.
The Obama administration ordered a six-month deep-water oil drilling moratorium after the BP oil spill, but it was lifted in October.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called the announcement “wonderful news,” saying of the BP oil spill, “If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what would be. If that doesn’t have an impact on your thinking, you must not be thinking.”
However, many Republican leaders, Gulf state officials and Gulf coast residents are critical of the ban, saying it will hurt oil and gas workers, thousands of whom have been out of work since the April spill.
“By continuing to keep most of America’s abundant oil and natural gas resources under lock and key, the Obama administration is ensuring that we will continue to increase our dependence on foreign oil, which threatens our national security,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
The ban shows a big shift in the Obama administration’s thinking. Prior to the Deepwater Horizon spill, Obama said he would open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico, parts of the Atlantic coast and the Beaufort Sea in Alaska to drilling leases.
Reach Reporter Brooke Matthews here.
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