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White House reverses decision on off-shore drilling

Two oil rigs are seen in the distance while a man fishes off the Pascagoula Beach Pier in Pascagoula, Miss.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: First, it was yes. Last spring, the White House blessed a dramatic expansion of off-shore oil and gas drilling. Now it's no. Today, the White House reversed itself. It's banning any new drilling on the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along much of the Atlantic Coast.

Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


Sarah Gardner: The administration will uphold a long-time ban on drilling along the mid and southern Atlantic coast and the west coast of Florida.

Anna Aurilio at Environment America says the White House learned a lesson eight months ago.

Anna Aurilio: The BP disaster earlier this year was unfortunately a really tragic reminder that drilling is a dirty and dangerous business.

In a phone call with reporters this afternoon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the drilling ban would remain until at least 2017. In the meantime, he said, the feds will work up stricter rules and regulations for the off-shore industry.

Industry officials weren't happy with today's decision. Randall Luthi is president of the National Ocean Industries Association. He says the government and industry could quickly have new safety standards in place. And it's a mistake to effectively stop new exploration.

Randall Luthi: If we keep staying in the same parameters, in the same area that we're in, without expanding, it appears that we're only going to increase our dependence on foreign oil.

But Secretary Salazar suggested today there's still plenty of off-shore waters to explore in the Gulf of Mexico. He noted that oil companies have nearly 29 million acres under lease in the Gulf they haven't developed yet.

Ken Salazar: So there's plenty of opportunity for the oil and gas companies to go out and develop these additional resources.

The government predicted three more years of oil might have come from the areas the Feds put off-limits today.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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