In a long-awaited move, the Obama administration today announced that it will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan. This is a welcome reversal of an announcement less March – made less than a month before the disastrous Deepwater Horizon blowout – that the administration had approved new offshore drilling off of Virginia, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and both coasts of Florida.
But not all of America’s coasts are safe from dirty and dangerous drilling operations. The five year plan still allows for the permitting process for Arctic drilling to move forward, although there will be further scientific evaluation of the operation.
Richard Charter, offshore drilling expert and senior policy advisor said, “The administration’s decisive move to restore protection of much of America’s coasts from the dangers of offshore drilling for the next five years demonstrates that it took the hard lessons of the BP Gulf oil disaster to heart. We continue to witness the devastation that drilling operations can have on our economy, coastal communities and wildlife. Prohibiting oil and gas exploration in these fragile areas is the only way to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again.
“The President now needs to apply the same lessons to the more immediate and very dangerous plans for offshore drilling in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean, where long dark winters and the absence of response infrastructure, combined with the complete lack of effective spill cleanup capabilities, would lead to catastrophic impacts.
“We are confident that further scientific studies of the impacts of drilling in the Arctic will show that the drilling ban should be extended to this region as well.”