Obama Yields to Pressure as Drilling Resumes in the Gulf
13th October 2010
Tuesday saw President Barack Obama reopening the Gulf to oil and gas exploration, amid ongoing pressure applied by some industry leaders and lawmakers. The moratorium on drilling in the Gulf, set by Obama, was due to expire on November 30. So far, there have been mixed reactions to the decision as the US is still reeling in the wake of the largest environmental disaster ever.
Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary, quickly offered his opinion on the decision by Obama, saying, “We are open for business.”
Florida governor Charlie Crist, concerned that Florida could not financially sustain another oil disaster, had a sharp rebuttal, saying, “As long as Gulf Coast residents and businesses are struggling with the claims process and being made whole, the drilling moratorium should not be lifted. Without a thorough investigation of what exactly caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, any drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a job killer for Florida, not a job creator.”
The Obama administration’s decision takes immediate effect, but it is estimated that several weeks will pass before actual drilling resumes. Companies planning to drill will be subject to thorough scrutiny as they attempt to comply with the new drilling rules. They will also go through a rigorous inspection process of their rigs.
Officials think that at least some of the idle rigs in the Gulf will be back to drilling by the end of the year.
The moratorium was imposed by Obama on April 20, immediately following the deadly accident on a BP oil rig and subsequent leaking well. The leak was eventually plugged, but not before more than five million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf.
The ban on drilling has been lifted a full six weeks before it was intended to. Many have been critical of the timing of the ban lift, as the midterm elections are right around the corner, during the first week of November.
The decision to lift the ban early has already started heated debates between the two political parties, and sometimes even within the same party.
Crist, Florida governor, attempted this past summer to get the Republican - majority Legislature to put a ban on drilling in state waters on the November ballot, but his idea was quickly rejected by legislators. Even though Florida passed a bill allowing drilling near the shore last year, incoming legislative leaders claim there will be no drilling anytime soon.
A democratic candidate for governor, Alex Sink, is opposed to drilling in state waters close to the shore, although he felt less opposition to the lifting of the moratorium.
This was pointed out by spokesperson, Kyra Jennings, as she remarked, “Alex Sink is supportive of deep water exploration and drilling with the appropriate safeguards - she thought the moratorium was needed until we could be assured the oil companies had the proper safeguards and emergency plans and that there was proper oversight at the federal level.”
Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, from Louisiana, referred to the decision to lift the moratorium, “a step in the right direction, but also said permits should be granted quicker and the new rules must be clear and concise”.
A federal report has estimated 8,000 to 12,000 jobs have been temporarily lost due to the moratorium.
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