Senator Vitter Wants to Drill off Your Coast
Senator Vitter has introduced an amendment to the Senate Transportation bill that would allow drilling off of every coast with zero consideration of environmental impacts.
Senator Vitter’s amendment (#1535) would require the Administration to revert to a Bush Administration schedule of lease sales that even Bush bureaucrats said lacked important safeguards for the environment.
Here’s the history: after Congress allowed a moratorium on offshore drilling to expire in 2008, the Bush Administration drafted a proposed program of possible lease sales off every shore – including California, the entire Atlantic Coast, Alaska and the Arctic, in addition to the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the Administration claimed that the proposed program was drafted to provide “maximum flexibility” for the incoming Obama Administration to consider. They specifically said that the lease sales in question needed to be further vetted, especially to determine where leasing should be avoided to protect sensitive habitats and coastal communities.
This proposed program never received a legal environmental review, and as a draft proposal, was never meant to be the be-all end-all program for leasing, even under the former Administration. By mandating this draft program be implemented, Senator Vitter’s amendment would not only drastically increase drilling off of all of our coasts, it would mandate drilling with absolutely zero consideration of environmental safeguards for our coasts and the communities who depend on healthy and clean oceans.
Just as intended, the Obama Administration is currently undertaking an environmental review to determine a program of lease sales that will be offered between 2012-2017. After the Gulf oil disaster made painfully obvious how dangerous and dirty drilling can be, the Obama Administration immediately dropped from consideration all lease sales off of California and along the Atlantic Coast (though they will go ahead with environmental analysis of seismic testing in the Mid- and South Atlantic – a precedent to drilling that is incredibly harmful to marine mammals). The areas remaining under consideration include the Eastern, Central and Western Gulf of Mexico, Alaska's Cook Inlet, and the Arctic Ocean (read NRDC's position on this proposed drilling plan here).
So, a leasing program is being developed right now; one which doesn't blatantly avoid the legal obligation under NEPA to consider the environmental impacts of drilling. Senator Vitter’s amendment would override this effort, cutting the public out of the process. Worse, it will require drilling everywhere, with no opportunity for the enactment of environmental protections necessary to safeguard our most valuable marine treasures and our coastal communities.
 See “Draft Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program 2010-2015” at http://www.boemre.gov/5-year/PDFs/DPP_FINAL.pdf Last accessed 3.1.2012.
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