President Bush’s last act to sell oil and gas leases for most of the U.S. coast – parting gift for oil buddies

January 18, 2009

(ChattahBox) — With his final days in office President Bush is focused on parting gift to his buddies in the oil and gas industry. After a hands-off policy for a quarter-century, the U.S. Interior Department, acting on the Presidents behalf submitted plans to sell oil and gas leases for most of the U.S. coast, from the Gulf of Maine to Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast. New drilling was also proposed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, one of the nation’s most plentiful sources of fish, and the Arctic Ocean. The proposal on Friday includes opening up 130 million acres off of California’s coast to drilling for oil and natural gas, including areas off Humboldt and Mendocino counties and from San Luis Obispo south to San Diego. However Washington, Oregon and protected parts of Florida were excluded along with waters off San Francisco Bay that lie within national marine sanctuaries.

On Friday, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups greeted the news with praise, saying it is time for domestic energy supplies to be released from the moratorium. But environmental groups and some Democratic leaders who oppose California drilling criticized the 11th-hour move, vowing to work with the Obama administration to promote energy independence based on clean, renewable technologies.

Richard Charter, a longtime environmental lobbyist who now works for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, called the government’s move “an extremist act.”

“What we see today is the political equivalent of a rock star trashing the hotel room right before checkout,” he said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with the governors of Oregon and Washington, opposes new offshore oil drilling despite the new revenue it would offer the cash-strapped state.

The federal government has failed to make a case for a new program because energy resources are insignificant in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico, already-sold leases aren’t being used, and no protections are in place to protect the environment, the governors said.

The Interior Department used a lapse in the congressional moratorium in October and a cancellation of a presidential prohibition in July to set in motion the lease-sale program – which the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama could cancel or proceed with.

Obama has said he would consider some offshore oil drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Obama’s pick for interior secretary, hasn’t given his views on offshore drilling in California. He said in his confirmation hearings Thursday that he will confer with the administration’s team.

Photo: OilAddict.com


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