Updated: Administration reverses offshore drilling plans


The Obama administration today reversed its plans to expand offshore drilling along the nation’s coastlines in a political retreat that was prompted by this summer’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the administration would block drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as the south- and mid-Atlantic through 2017 as part of a plan that will govern leasing on the outer continental shelf from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017.

The administration’s plan to auction drilling leases for central and western Gulf of Mexico tracts next year also will be delayed. That means the sale scheduled for next March will now be delayed until late 2011 at the earliest, to allow time for the government to conduct a lengthy environmental assessment of the Gulf of Mexico that was announced last month.

Salazar said the administration’s “updated strategy” would allow federal regulators to focus on areas that have already been open for leasing and concentrate on continuing to beef up safety requirements for offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“As that oversight regime is put into place, we have revised our initial March announcement . . . to focus and expand our critical resources on areas with leases that are currently active,” Salazar said. And for those open Gulf areas, “we will do everything we can to proceed with the lease sales by the end of 2011 and in 2012.”

Today’s move reverses President Barack Obama’s high-profile March 31 announcement that the administration would take the first steps toward expanding offshore drilling along the mid- and south-Atlantic by allowing seismic studies of the region.

Administration officials downplayed the change, noting that the White House had not guaranteed any drilling in federal waters along the East Coast as part of its March announcement — just seismic studies that would pave the way for future exploration. And because a 2006 law bars drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast until 2022, it would be up to Congress — not the administration — to first lift that ban before the government could sell leases for that area.

“It is important to remember that the preliminary study we were proposing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico . . . would not result in any leasing because Congress needs to act before any leasing in this area,” Salazar said.

Salazar stressed that seismic studies off the Atlantic Coast would still go forward, and emphasized that even with the decision to wall off some areas, there still are 29 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico that could be developed.

The administration also is still weighing whether to allow Shell to drill an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska next summer, although the company has warned that if it doesn’t get a decision soon, the project will not be feasible in the 2011 Alaskan drilling season.

Michael Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said his agency was considering Shell’s Arctic drilling plans but would “not be constrained by any artificial deadlines.”

“In the Arctic, which is a frontier area, where leases have been issued but there is limited development, we will proceed with utmost caution,” Salazar said. “BOEMRE will carefully review Shell’s application to determine if the project meets all existing and new safety standards and has robust spill response capabilities in place and will do so before a decision to move forward can be granted.”

To begin drilling, Shell needs an okay from the ocean energy bureau, as well as permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and other entities.

Today’s decision was cheered by environmentalists, who said it showed the Obama administration was heeding lessons learned by the oil spill. Margie Alt, the executive director of Environment America, said the decision is good news for “anyone who loves our beaches, who fishes in the ocean or who depends on a healthy coastal economy.”

But the move was blasted by oil and gas industry advocates, who said it was foolish and unnecessary. Bruce Vincent, the president of Houston-based Swift Energy and chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said the administration was “waging an unbridled war on America’s oil and natural gas producers” with a “misguided announcement that will keep even more taxpayer-owned energy resources further out of reach and under Washington’s lock-and-key.”

Read more reaction from industry officials and congressional offshore drilling advocates here. Read more reaction from offshore drilling critics here. You also can read highlights of the administration’s new offshore drilling plans.

Jennifer Dlouhy

33 Responses

  1. MUNDYJM says:

    Hey Ken Salazar (or is it Phil Gramm?), what about all the MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS (legal of course) who work as Rough Necks Offshore!!?? What about their JOBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????????????????????

  2. Oilpecker says:

    In general, I think all offshore areas should eventually be open for drilling. It is unfair for Texas, Lousiana, and Mississippi to bear all the environmental risk of offshore drilling. Let California and Florida start bearing their share of the burden.

    But I think the moratorium is reasonable. Despite all the vituperation expressed in the comments re: Obama, the moratorium is essentially a continuation of the policy under George W. Bush.

    The moratorium is reasonable because the Deepwater Horizon spill showed the oil industry showed it was not prepared to deal with a spill, despite their dishonest assertions beforehand that they had everything under control and ready to go. The response to the spill, while ultimately successful in capping the well, was seat-of-the-pants improvisation. America’s coastlines deserve better than that.

    Plus, blowout preventer technology is wanting. Failure rates are around 20%. The oil industry made massive profits in the Bush years, and is likely to continue to do so for years to come. They put much more money into stock buybacks than into improving technology to prevent spills and prepare for spill response.

    We need the oil, but the oil industry needs to get serious about deepwater drilling safety.

  3. txsense says:

    Of course, this makes perfect sense. Obama wants to preserve the oil in the Eastern Carribean and off the coast of Florida for the Russians, Chinese, Spanish and Brazilians who have all struck deep water offshore exploration and production deals with Cuba! None of which have the operator safety record of U.S. companies.

    The only ones not permitted to drill under Obama is the good old U S of A! Florida if there are spills, look east for help with your clean-up not west.

  4. Trail Trash says:

    Cool. Ban drilling. Let’s cut off all oil sales from the Gulf of Mexico to Florida and the East Coast as well. See how they like all those wind farms off their beaches.

  5. Dollar says:

    And on closer inspection, I can answer my own question. I see no drill pipe extending under those platforms.

    But hey, it sure gives the impression that drilling clutters up the seascape , huh ???

    I mean who would want to go to the beach and look at that ???

  6. Dollar says:

    Can someone tell me where the pic was taken that accompanies this article ?

    Those jack-up rigs have to be in storage. There’s no way they would all be drilling that close to each other.

    Or am I wrong ?

    • Jillian Cohan says:

      Hi Dollar,

      You’re right that the jack-ups are not active. Here is the full caption info for the photo: “Semi-subermisible oil rigs and jackup shallow-water drilling units stand idle in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Cameron, Louisiana, U.S., on Saturday, July 17, 2010. Photographer: Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg”

  7. Dollar says:

    RJL can go get a new Schwinn and stop driving his car, since he does not need oil.

    Hypocrites ………. they burn everyone else’s oil, and they want cheap gasoline to fuel their tourist economy ……..but don’t wanna tote any of the load.

    When gasoline is over $4 per gallon, and airlines are hiking their fares to cover costs of oil at $110 per bbl …………..and no tourists can afford to travel to Florida …….. or when the charter fishing boats are having to charge an arm and a leg to fuel those big boats to go fish on the ” pristine ” Gulf ………then they will be crying about how the oil companies are gouging and they will be complaining about Exxon’s profits.

    Small minded morons.

  8. rational says:

    Texas Proud,

    I see a rational discussion without personal attacks is outside your ability. So, all I will say, is that we should be driving less and using less gasoline. Not only does gasoline use have a detrimental effect on our environment (in so many ways), more driving leads to higher rates of obesity, and more deaths (driving, especially long distances is dangerous). And that doesn’t even touch on the foreign policy implications because of our addiction to oil. So, in conclusion, the price of gasoline should increase and we should be using less of it. If you would think for a moment rather than lashing out with personal attacks like a child, you might understand that.

  9. haywood jablome says:


    Then why did Obama say he’d open up the eastern GOM and Atlantic and then crawfish? This isn’t about GW, it’s about BHO and his lies, demogogic actions and backstabbing. Get back to filing Jim’s paperwork. Perhaps Paul B. will file Ch. 11 if no more permits and no more money and please tell J.T. to give Millennium its money-claiming monies prior to the effective date is a typical Obama type action-stealing, whether from the gummint or from a company is steal stealing.!

  10. mxyzptlyk says:

    Stll punishing the south for not voting for him in 2008!

  11. SarahATP says:

    The ban that “O” isn’t lifting was put in place by Republicans in 2006 under a Republican POTUS from Texas and a Republican Congress… where was all this senseless whining back then?? The Oil companies need to be drilling the US leases they already have (which they are not) and even if they did, the products would be sold overseas anyway. Waahhhh.

  12. haywood jablome says:

    BHO is nothing but an ACORN puppet that lives off gummint money. He doesn’t know anything but how to be a demogogue and would best serve the USA by moving to his homeland where he belongs. Perhaps he could take Pelousy, Idiot Reid and Nelson with him. Farge Florida-they have one field-Sunniland-and that is controlled by the Colliers and has been never fully developed-take Florida and Californuts and turn off the pipelines and see how many folks there scream for oil and gas-screw them. maybe Florida can use Corn Ethanol to run their engines-after all, Al “Greenazz” Gore promoted it as the “cure all” to oil dependency and Corn is one of the worst ethanol sources in the world-very ineffecient. Seems like Dummycrats never passed elementary school. I guess the 4 hardest years of education for a democrat is 6th Grade!! Jethro Bodine would make a better leader than BHO and his band of criminals.

  13. LanceBoyle says:

    Don’t worry folks! Jimmuh Carter formed the Dept of Energy about 30 years and a few trillion dollars ago to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Although the Dept has not found a drop of oil or a puff of gas themselves, they are fully qualified to meddle in the O&G industry, much the same way that Fisty McBumpy is doing now.
    I am sure it is just a matter of time before DOE unveils its grand master plan to satisfy its mission.
    RJL, I expect you to turn in your car and everything you own that is made from petrochemicals. that’s only fair.
    when the drooling, mouth-breathing libbies see a price spike at the gas pumps and start to hyperventilate, let’s all remind them of what contributed to it, okay?

  14. txlady says:

    Anyone who protests against any drilling, must be willing to give up everything of the modern world and live the way people did before the first oil well was drilled.
    Only when these people are willing to give it all up, including their cell phones, computers, cars, food, clothing, and shelter, and make do with only what they can produce themselves, on their own property, without any form of power to assist them except that which they can produce themselves — only then will I listen to what they have to say.

  15. This is going to be easily remedied in 2012. Adios Obama, Adios. For the next two years you’ll get the cooperation you give. Step aside responsibility is taking over.

  16. Michael Shes says:

    Does this mean POTUS and his fellow Rulers will have to sacrifice their 747’s anytime soon? Is Sec. Salazar really on retainer to Hugo Chavez? Sen Nelson – how do you think tourists travel to your state? On foot?

    Pathetic farce springs to mind!

  17. o.m. says:

    won’t anyone think of those poor oil companies who only have our best interest in mind!??!?!?! (sarcasm hats need be on)

  18. RJL says:

    NO drilling in Florida period as far as I’m concerned. Keep all that nasty filth on the already polluted Texas shores… you can have it!!

  19. Texas Proud says:

    Hey Rational…you are a idiot….

    Most oil consumed in the US is for Cars…99% of electricity comes from coal, nuclear, gas and a tiny bit from crappy wind. So unless you want to stop driving, then raise oil prices…we can be become energy independent if we drill here at home and not buy any foreign oil…..

  20. mark says:

    If the oil companies had a firm backing from this administration that drilling could go ahead full bore at a certain date then they could start laying the infrastructure down now like pipelines,platforms and other things necessary for transporting and processing the oil from the already known reservoirs out there. But right now with political risk involved no one will risk it.

  21. Roroware says:

    Seems like a prudent decision to me until we can figure out the scope of the damage and how long it will take the gulf to recover from the spill.

  22. Rob C says:

    The poor man has lost his mind.

    we need to do the exact opposite…..we need to push forward and focus on the Natural gas in the gulf and we need to have done it ten years ago!

  23. Art Vandeley says:

    Venusuela, Iran, China, etc. have us right where they want the United States…….still addicted to foreign oil and vunerable. Thanks President Hussein Obama!

  24. EOG says:

    Go away completely Obama.. You are not wanted as this country’s leader.. Read the results of the elections.. Go away!

  25. DAvid Rosenberg says:

    I guess then we are planning to attack Cuba to prevent the drilling in their offshore waters.

    Absurd. I heard one Fl politician claim he could see around the curvature of the earth to see drilling rigs 100 miles off the coast. Flat earthers I guess.

  26. TXSFRED says:

    Get The DUD out of there.

  27. rational says:

    Last time I was in Florida, there were signs everywhere saying “NO RIGS!” So, I am sure this will be popular there.

    In the end, we need higher prices on oil, whether it be through less supply or carbon taxes, to lower our demand and make alternative energy more competitive. That may not be popular to say in Texas, the oil spill capital of the world, but its the right policy.

  28. David Dockter says:

    Keep in mind that that offer of expanded oil and gas exploration in the mid-Atlantic and the eastern Gulf of Mexico was offered up in order to build support for legislation addressing greenhouse gas emissions (AKA Cap and Tax). Since, there is no chance of the house passed legislation passing the senate anytime soon it only seems reasonable to remove the offer from the table. Salizar’s comment the ban would remain for at least 5 years should be read that lifting the ban remains a bargining chip that the administration could use in the future. Politics, love it or hate it, it is the art of the deal.

  29. CompGuy says:

    This might be more of a two year ban until January 20, 2013.

    The same safety measures which ended the moratorium early because the oil companies were following new safety measures will be the same safety measures taken for the eastern Gulf and Mid Atlantic drilling. Sen. Nelson must have agreed to vote for some future junk with the White House in exchange for the White House putting this executive order into effect.

  30. BG says:

    I do not ever want to hear another member of that party complain about high energy costs. Ever. They have abdicated that right as their actions literally guarantee higher costs going forward.

  31. m9777 says:

    What a stupid, stupid decision by a stupid POTUS and his stupid Administration!

  32. oldthudman says:

    What a “MORON”!………….Trying to punish Texas and Louisiana for voting Republicans in…….I think we auaght to recall him from office ASAP before he kills this country……..