With today’s announcement that a large swath of the Gulf of Mexico will be closed to drilling for the foreseeable future, the White House reverses a bad decision it made six months ago to open a huge, environmentally sensitive area – the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic seaboard – to offshore oil drilling and exploration. A mere three weeks later, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history occurred when BP’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf.
We applaud the Obama administration for this commonsense decision and its long-awaited recognition of the fact that the BP disaster was indeed a game changer for offshore oil drilling. By maintaining the moratorium on drilling in these areas for at least the next five years, the administration takes its first official step in acknowledging that offshore drilling is too hazardous to be part of the solution to America’s energy challenges.
The announcement comes just a day before the president-appointed oil spill commission convenes for the final time before releasing its report on Jan. 11. We hope that the commission’s recommendations are consistent with the administration’s reconsideration of U.S. oil drilling policy. Among the recommendations we would like to see is the establishment of Regional Citizens’Advisory Councils – that will give Gulf Coast communities a real voice in the energy industry decisions that affect their lives and homes.