GOP govs, green groups press Obama on drilling

GOP govs, green groups press Obama on drilling
09 Aug

Source: The Hill

The Obama administration is facing fresh political criticism from the right and the left over its offshore drilling policies.

Seven GOP governors from coastal states, in a new letter to President Obama, say the federal 2012-2017 oil-and-gas leasing plan is far too modest, and accuse President Obama of largely freezing them out of its development.

The Republicans, under the umbrella of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, attack the plan for keeping the Atlantic Coast off-limits to drilling, and also allege the scope and pace of leasing in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast is too modest.

“We believe that the federal government must abide by its legal responsibility to allow coastal-state governors better opportunities to consult on the development and mitigation of the five-year plan,” states the letter from the governors of Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Mississippi.

“Failure to do so has led to a highly disappointing 2012-2017 Five-Year Plan that severely limits the ability of the United States to develop new areas offshore, grow our economy and decrease our dependence on overseas oil,” adds the letter on the Interior Department’s plan.

The Aug. 8 letter also states that the plan failed to “properly account for the possibility of expediting and expanding the lease sale schedule in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Interior pushed back against the GOP governors’ claims about a lack of consultation with states.

“In developing the five-year program, Interior conducted outreach and sought input from all 50 states, tribes, and others stakeholders. Through multiple venues, including formal comment periods and public hearings, states provided feedback that helped inform the final plan,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff said.

Over a dozen environmental groups, meanwhile, are putting renewed pressure on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to allow Royal Dutch Shell to begin planned exploratory drilling in Arctic seas off Alaska’s coast this summer.

The oil giant hopes to soon commence long-planned, long-delayed exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

But the green groups, in a letter to Salazar on Thursday, say a series of recent events “call into further question the company’s ability to drill safely in the Arctic.”

The include Shell’s request for the Environmental Protection Agency to relax air pollution permits for drillship emissions, the July incident in which the Noble Discoverer drillship slipped its mooring and nearly ran aground in Dutch Harbor, and activists’ concerns about Shell’s oil spill containment barge.

“The bottom line is that Shell is not living up to its promises and is trying to drill this summer even while serious problems remain, including the persistence of hazardous icy conditions in the Arctic. In light of the significant missing scientific information, lack of preparedness and Shell’s broken promises, we urge you to deny Shell its [drilling permits] for Arctic drilling this season,” states the letter from the Alaska Wilderness League, the Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, the National Audubon Society and other groups.