The Beacon

Offshore Drilling Plan Offers Mixed Tidings

An oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

This afternoon, the Department of the Interior released its plan for oil drilling for the next five years, and it’s a mixed bag.

Bad news first: Today’s decision opens the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico to drilling, despite the facts that the Gulf is still experiencing the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and that safety regulations have improved little since this disaster.

The decision also leaves the Arctic open to drilling. Fortunately, there’s a small bright spot here: The administration has announced that lease sales in the Arctic will be continued only after more research and monitoring has been conducted. Today’s decision also promises to respect special areas within the Arctic and acknowledges the recent report that found gaps in Arctic ecosystem science.

The best news, however, is that the administration will not permit offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, or the parts of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico currently under a drilling moratorium.

“The administration’s new five-year plan is good news for Atlantic coastal states, especially Virginia and Florida.  However, the Arctic and the Gulf are still in harm’s way,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana senior campaign director.

“As we watch the BP oil continue to foul the Gulf of Mexico, it’s crystal clear that fundamental, industry-wide safety and response failures must be addressed before moving forward with such an aggressive program in the Gulf.  The economy and health of the Gulf may not survive the next disaster,” Savitz added.

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