Obama Cancels Some Offshore Leases


SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity praised the Obama administration’s announcement today that it is cancelling two offshore oil and gas lease sales: one in the Atlantic off the coast of Virginia and another in the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic lease sale was part of a controversial area that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved for expanded offshore oil development after the Bush administration lifted the moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic. The Gulf of Mexico lease sale was scheduled to take place in mid-August.

“Obama’s decision to cancel these lease sales recognizes that risky offshore drilling needs reform,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “Halting controversial lease sales is among the most proactive steps that Obama has taken toward the Gulf disaster.”

The Federal Register notices to be published tomorrow cancel Lease Sale 220 in the Atlantic and Lease Sale 215 in the western part of the Gulf of Mexico. The notices say cancelling these lease sales “will allow time to develop and implement measures to improve the safety of oil and gas development in Federal waters, provide greater environmental protection, and substantially reduce the risk of catastrophic events.”

“Rather than sound science and common sense, federal approval of offshore drilling has relied upon Big Oil promises, “ said Sakashita. “This commitment to revisit oil spill risks, safety and environmental protections is long overdue.” Just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Department of the Interior proposed expanding offshore oil development into new areas of the Atlantic, Arctic and eastern Gulf of Mexico.