NOAA Concerns Brushed Aside in Obama Offshore Drilling Plan

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

NOAA Concerns Brushed Aside in Obama Offshore Drilling Plan

Political Positioning Trumps Promises of Comprehensive Planning

WASHINGTON - The Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Strategy announced this week
by the Obama administration ignores the recommendations and cautions put
forward by its lead ocean resource agency, the National Oceanic &
Atmospheric Administration, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new offshore drilling plan
also belies pledges for comprehensive planning of ocean management,
using a much broader prism than merely expanded offshore oil and gas
development.

In comments filed on September 21, 2009, NOAA urged
that plans for an ambitious lease schedule for oil and gas drilling on
the Outer Continental Shelf be dramatically scaled back. Besides
environmental concerns, NOAA advocated in vain for a coordinated ocean
strategy. Citing "many competing priorities" of fisheries, navigation,
military activities, deepwater ports and a variety of non-petroleum
energy projects, NOAA recommended that:

"...lease
areas should not be further considered...until the CEQ-led Ocean Policy
Task Force has released its recommendations and directives,"

referring to the multi-agency ocean zoning effort spearheaded by the
President's Council on Environmental Quality. In a June 12, 2009
Memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies, President Obama also
set forth a comprehensive planning approach at odds with his ad hoc oil
and gas drilling pronouncement:

"To succeed in
protecting the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, the United States needs
to act within a unifying framework under a clear national policy,
including a comprehensive, ecosystem-based framework for the longterm
conservation and use of our resources."

"If the
Ocean Policy Task Force is supposed to develop a zoning plan for our
oceans, this Interior drilling plan is spot zoning on steroids," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that President Obama appeared
to be making a political gesture to benefit Senate climate negotiations.
"The Obama drilling gambit appears to be politics as usual rather than
the promised rational, balanced planning effort."

In addition,
the new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Strategy pays no heed to
recommended NOAA safeguards for fisheries, marine mammals and coastal
populations, including:

  • A moratorium on any Arctic Ocean
    drilling until much better oil spill prevention and response capability
    is in place. NOAA also contends that Interior plans understate the
    expected frequency of and risk from spills, generally, noting
    aftereffects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and
  • Buffer zones
    that would bar drilling "around national marine sanctuaries, Habitat
    Areas of Particular Concern, Critical Habitat for endangered and
    threatened species, major fishing grounds and to provide visual buffers
    to coastal areas dependent upon tourism."

"NOAA does not
appear to have a seat at the table where ocean policy is decided in this
administration," added Ruch, noting that one of the only NOAA
recommendations adopted was an exclusionary zone for Bristol Bay in
Alaska but then only temporarily. "Unfortunately, the Obama
administration seems to regard ocean resources as a bargaining chip
rather than as a heritage."

 

See
Interior's OCS Oil & Gas Strategy

Compare the NOAA
objections

Look
at the White House Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

###

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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