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March 31, 2010

Obama To Approve Offshore Drilling?

Looks like the proverbial blind squirrel found a nut.

The Obama administration will approve significant oil and gas exploration off America's coasts, including a possible sale two years from now of leases off the Virginia shore, administration officials said Wednesday.

The move, which President Obama will announce Wednesday morning with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Andrews Air Force Base, ends a long-standing moratorium on oil and gas drilling along much of the East Coast, from Delaware to central Florida.

The new strategy also calls for oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, more than 125 miles from Florida's coast, and in large areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, after the government conducts detailed studies, an administration official said.

The administration will bar exploration in Alaska's Bristol Bay, officials said, which is home to critical wildlife habitat. Aides spoke of the plans on the condition of anonymity, to avoid preempting the president's announcement.

As always, there may well be a catch here. Will it be tied to a Cap and Trade bill? Or if there's not that explicit of a connection, it might be an effort to improve the atmosphere for getting one of the climate bills going.

With this group there's always reason for caution when they do something right. And as always, there's a promise that has reached it's expiration date.

Added: The Hill has a piece about five hurdles a climate bill faces. Number 3? Offshore drilling.

(Sierra Club chief Michael) Brune also pointed to another potential stumbling block: offshore drilling. “We will not be able to accept the dramatic giveaway that offshore oil drilling represents,” he said.

But expanding offshore drilling opportunities to lower dependence on foreign oil is one of the main reasons Sen. Graham is helping to craft a bill. The legislation is expected to have an opt-in, opt-out mechanism. State legislatures closer to shores will have to affirm they want drilling off their coasts.

Environmental groups are worried, though, that Democratic leaders are risking too much. Ten coastal-state Democrats wrote KGL last week warning against “unfettered” access to offshore areas.

Another potential hurdle is whether states should get a share of the royalties for oil and gas operations in federal waters off their coastlines. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said the royalties should go to federal coffers. But legislative fence-sitters, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), have pushed for states to take a greater share.

It will be interesting to see what Lindsey Graham (Rish-Really SC?) says after today's announcement.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:38 AM

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