Obama halts new offshore drilling but defends plan

President Obama Friday defended the need to expand offshore oil and gas exploration even as his administration ceased new drilling as a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is being investigated.

"Let me be clear: I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security," Obama said Friday in a Rose Garden speech focused on the economy. "But I've always said it must be done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment. The local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast, as well as the ecology of the region, are at stake."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will report back in 30 days "on what, if any, additional precautions and technologies should be required to prevent accidents like this from happening again," Obama said. "And we're going to make sure that any leases going forward have those safeguards."

He also said all deepwater rigs and platforms are being inspected.

But Obama is likely to face stronger resistance from coastal-state Democrats. Four New Jersey Democrats today wrote him to ask that he reverse his decision to open up waters for drilling off the shores of much of the East Coast, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Alaskan Arctic region and coast, as well as his call for studies of the oil and natural gas potential in the coastal regions from Delaware to northern Florida.

"In the wake of the tragic accident, loss of life, and pollution in the Gulf of Mexico ... we are even more steadfastly opposed to any offshore drilling that could imperil the environment or economy of coastal New Jersey," said Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.

Their letter followed an announcement Thursday by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., that he will introduce a bill to block the administration from acting on its plans to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling.

In a letter to Obama, Nelson asked the administration to "postpone indefinitely plans for expanded offshore drilling operations" and called for an "immediate halt to test wells and all other exploratory operations in coastal waters." Nelson said on CNN Friday morning that plans in any climate and energy bill this year to expand offshore drilling are "dead on arrival now."

Obama has dispatched Salazar, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, White House energy adviser Carol Browner and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco to the Gulf as reports suggest the spill may have reached land early Friday.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency in several counties Friday, joining Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who declared a state of emergency Thursday.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Friday morning no new drilling will occur while the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill is under investigation. But he also defended Obama's blueprint for offshore oil and natural gas exploration.

"All he has said is that he's not going to continue the moratorium on drilling, but ... no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," Axelrod said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.