Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has released some details on the expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling, production and exploration announced Wednesday by President Obama. Hoping to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, the Obama administration announced it would allow expanded oil and gas development in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, "while protecting fisheries, tourism, and places off U.S. coasts that are not appropriate for development," according to Sec. Salazar.
Development - Where?
Expanded oil and gas development and production will be permitted in all areas of the Gulf of Mexico (map), including areas of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that are currently under Congressional moratorium and closed to development.
"The plan we are proposing calls for 4 more lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico by 2012 and, in the years beyond, would open up two-thirds of the oil and gas resources in the Eastern Gulf while protecting Florida's coast and critical military training areas," said Salazar in a press release. "Our efforts to strategically open new areas in the Eastern Gulf would represent the largest expansion of our nation's available offshore oil and gas supplies in three decades."
By 2012, the Department of Interior will also open for development areas 50 miles off the coast of Virginia (map) and in the Cook Inlet in Alaska (map), "provided there is interest from industry, that development can be done in an environmentally responsible manner, and that development does not compromise critical military training in the Atlantic," said Salazar.
Exploration - Where?
Expanded oil and gas exploration will be allowed in currently off-limits "frontier areas," in the Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean.
According to Salazar, exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean could start as early as this summer, dependent on a United States Geological Survey assessment of environmental risks.
Some Areas Protected
Salazar stressed that the Obama administration's plan also called for new or continued protection of certain areas such as Alaska's Bristol Bay (map), which will remain off-limits to oil and gas development through 2017.
"In our quest to secure our energy future, we must not lose the places and values that set our nation apart," said Salazar. "Bristol Bay is a national treasure that we must protect for future generations."
In addition, no exploration or development is proposed in offshore areas near California, Oregon, and Washington or in the North Atlantic (map).
Also See: The End of Oil?