New drilling won’t be authorized until probe into oil spill completed
President Barack Obama won’t allow offshore drilling in new areas until an investigation into a Gulf Coast oil spill is complete, a senior advisor said Friday.
“No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here,” White House senior advisor David Axelrod said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday.
Axelrod’s comments are the strongest signal yet from the White House that the accident could alter controversial administration plans to expand oil-and-gas development in federal waters.
“No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what happened here,” he said.
The administration in late March said it would allow expanded leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and in Arctic waters, as well as lease sales off the coast of mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.
White House energy advisor Carol Browner said Thursday that the spill would factor into decisions about what new areas might be offered for leasing, noting that the plan announced a month ago is the “beginning of a process, not the end of a process.”
“Obviously, what’s occurring now will also be taken into consideration as the administration looks to how to advance that plan and what makes sense and what might need to be adjusted,” she said at a White House press briefing.
Most of the new leasing envisioned would occur under a 2012-2017 development plan, although the plan also calls for proceeding with the sale of leases in waters off Virginia’s coast by 2012.
The expanded leasing plan drew attacks from some coastal Democrats, while Republicans said the new exploration authorized by the president didn’t go far enough.
The explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that has spilled massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, which started to reach shores on Friday, may put the plans for expanded drilling in political jeopardy.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called for a temporary halt to offshore drilling in the wake of the spill.
The administration has revved up response efforts in the Gulf, having spoken to the governors of those states affected by the spill last night, and having sought to aggressively deploy federal resources to manage the spill.
Ben Geman contributed to this article.