President Bush Lifts Executive Ban on Offshore Drilling
By Dan Eggen and William Branigin
July 14, 2008
President Bush today lifted a presidential ban on offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf that was implemented by his father, escalating a confrontation with Democrats in Congress over how to cope with soaring gasoline prices.
Lifting the executive moratorium has no immediate practical effect, because Congress enacted its own prohibition on offshore drilling in 1981. It would have to be rescinded for exploration to proceed.
In a Rose Garden statement at the White House, Bush argued that allowing drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines would ease pressure on oil prices by increasing domestic production.
Bush also advocated taking other steps, such as allowing drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and access to oil shale in a basin that stretches across parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. He blamed congressional opposition to drilling for the current run-up in gas prices.
"We need to take action now to expand domestic oil production," Bush said. Asserting that "failure to act is unacceptable," he said today's move clears away executive branch restrictions on offshore oil exploration. "This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," he said.
Bush's move was aimed at increasing pressure on Democrats to act. It also raised the likelihood that offshore drilling would become a prominent part of the ongoing presidential campaign.
Bush first called on Congress to lift its drilling ban last month, saying he would simultaneously rescind the executive ban announced by his father, President George H. W. Bush, in 1990 and formally implemented in 1992. But he said today that he decided to act now because Democrats have failed to schedule any hearings or take the issue seriously.
"It's been almost a month since I urged Congress to act, and they've done nothing," Bush said. "As the Democratically controlled Congress has sat idle, gas prices have continued to increase."
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, has endorsed opening the outer continental shelf for exploration. The expected Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), opposes lifting the moratorium, arguing that drilling would take years and would have no appreciable impact on gas prices.
On Capitol Hill, key Democrats denounced Bush's move and focused on their calls for legislation forcing oil companies to instead drill on the millions of acres for which they already hold leases.
"The president didn't follow his father's policy on Iraq, and now he's not following his father's policy on offshore oil drilling," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "Ironically, the result will be less pressure on the oil companies to produce on the leases they already hold."
Boxer added: "At a time when the Bush administration is failing on housing, the economy, the deficit, the environment and foreign policy, the president is desperately trying to divert responsibility for outrageous gas prices from himself to the Congress."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called Bush's announcement "a false promise that simply won't deliver" the benefits he claims.
Feinstein said it would take at least seven years under the best circumstances to begin drilling in areas currently under a moratorium, and she argued that the risk of environmental accidents is too great.
"There simply are no good or easy options to bring prices down," Feinstein said. "Instead, what we need is a long-term solution that will reduce America's reliance on fossil fuels."
[THIS IS NOT TRUE, SENATORS. MARKET PSYCHOLOGY & SPECULATION IS AFFECTED BY THE EXISTENCE OR NON-EXISTENCE OF VIABLE SHORT TERM and LONG TERM GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RESOLVE THE ENERGY CRISIS. ONE OPTION, AMONG OTHERS, IS TO OPEN UP OFFSHORE DRILLING. OTHER OPTIONS INCLUDE INCENTIVIZING THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO ENSURE AFFORDABLE, CLEANER BURNING FOSSIL FUELS, AS WELL AS, THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE NON-FOSSIL FUEL ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES TO MEET BURGEONING U.S. ENERGY DEMANDS. HOWEVER, CONGRESS' SITTING ON ITS HANDS AND PLEAING FOR CONSERVATION SIMPLY DOESN'T MAKE PRACTICAL SENSE AS CONSUMERS SUFFER HIGHER OIL & GAS PRICES FOR THEIR HOMES, AUTOS AND BUSINESSES.]
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading opponent of oil exploration in the outer continental shelf and author of a bill to permanently ban drilling off the Atlantic coast, said in a statement that Bush's plan "won't produce a drop of oil until 2017 and won't lower gas prices ever."
To provide relief in the near term, he said, "we must crack down on speculation in the oil markets" and require oil companies to tap into "the 68 million acres of unused land already leased to them by American taxpayers."
To reduce U.S. dependence on oil in the long term and avoid future gas price crises, "we must transition from a transportation system based on oil to one based on renewable energy and advanced alternative fuels," Menendez said. "And we can do it in the time George Bush and John McCain would have us wait for minimal oil production along our coastlines. Bush's plan "is not a serious proposal to help American families," he charged. "This is exploitation of pain at the pump to give yet another handout to oil companies."
[DEAR SENATOR MENENDEZ, SINCE YOU ARE A SENATOR FROM OUR HOME STATE, WE ESPECIALLY FIND YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS AN INSULT TO THE INTELLIGENCE OF NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS.]
[SENATOR MENENDEZ, WE MUST DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO ENSURE THAT THE U.S. HAS SUFFICIENT ENERGY SUPPLIES, WHATEVER THE FORM, TO MEET ENERGY DEMAND, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE. THIS MEANS CLEANER BURNING, AFFORDABLE FOSSIL FUELS, SUCH AS OIL, NATURAL GAS, COAL & NUCLEAR, as well as, RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS SOLAR & WIND. BY TAKING EVERYTHING OFF THE TABLE EXCEPT RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES, YOU'RE ONLY SPEAKING OF THE LONG TERM AND AVOIDING THE SHORT TERM. HOW MUCH LONGER DO YOU EXPECT NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS TO TOLERATE THE CURRENT RUN UP IN GAS AND HOME COOLING/HEATING PRICES??]
[FURTHERMORE, SENATOR, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY COULD DERIVE SUBSTANTIAL REVENUES FROM LICENSING OIL & GAS DRILLING OF THE NEW JERSEY COASTLINE. - "In accordance with the federal Submerged Lands Act of 1953 (SLA),10 coastal states are generally entitled to an area extending three geographical miles11 from their officially recognized coast (or baseline). In order to accommodate the claims of certain states, the SLA provides for an extended three marine league seaward boundary in the Gulf of Mexico if a state can show such a boundary was provided for by the state’s “constitution or laws prior to or at the time such State became a member of the Union, or if it has been heretofore approved by Congress.” After enactment of the SLA, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Gulf coast boundaries of Florida and Texas do extend to the three marine league limit; other Gulf coast states were unsuccessful in their challenges.
Within their offshore boundaries, coastal states have “(1) title to and ownership of the lands beneath navigable waters within the boundaries of the respective states, and (2) the right and power to manage, administer, lease, develop and use the said lands and natural resources
...” Accordingly, coastal states have the option of developing offshore oil and gas within their waters; if they choose to develop, they may regulate that development." See Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework, Congressional Research Service Report # RL33404 (May 3, 2007) at pp. CRS-4-5, at: http://www.cnie.org/NLE/CRSreports/07Jun/RL33404.pdf . WOULDN'T IT BEHOOVE NEW JERSEY TO CONSIDER HOW TO DERIVE MORE GENERAL FUNDS FROM LEASING IN ORDER TO MAKE UP FOR HISTORIC STATE BUDGET SHORTFALLS, IN ORDER TO RELIEVE THE FISCAL BURDEN ON NEW JERSEY TAXPAYERS??]
Calling today's move "a political stunt," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and forcing oil companies to drill on the leased land they already control "would be a good place to start" in trying to lower gas prices.
[FOR REP. RAHM EMANUEL TO GET INVOLVED, GIVEN HIS INFLUENTIAL POLITICAL POSITION IN THIS YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT MUST MEAN THAT THIS POLICY DECISION HAS STRUCK A VERY SENSITIVE NERVE AMONG THE MAJORITY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. DEAR ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN, HOW WOULD SUCH DRILLING AFFECT YOU AND YOUR ILLINOIS CONSTITUENTS? DO SOME FEEL THAT DRILLING BEYOND 50 MILES OFFSHORE WOULD 'ENDANGER' THE RESALE VALUE OF THEIR LAKEFRONT PROPERTIES??]
Bush formally lifted the executive ban today in a "memorandum for the secretary of interior" released by the White House.
He said the legislation must give states "a say in what happens off their shores," provide for the sharing of new leasing revenues between the states and the federal government and ensure environmental protection.
According to a report last year by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, however, "access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." Because oil prices are determined on the international market, it added, "any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."
In a speech at the White House June 18, Bush urged lawmakers to lift the 27-year-old ban on drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf, arguing that the country needs more domestic energy production to help reduce dependence on foreign oil and ease upward pressure on gasoline prices.
The White House hopes that record crude oil prices and a national average price for regular unleaded gasoline of nearly $4.11 a gallon will weaken opposition to the new offshore drilling.
Among the opponents are environmental groups, tourism interests, commercial fishermen and most Democrats in Congress.
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
Bush Lifts Ban on Offshore Drilling
WASHINGTON (July 14) - President Bush on Monday lifted an executive ban on offshore oil drilling and challenged Congress to follow suit, aiming to turn the enormous public frustration about gasoline prices into political leverage. Democratic lawmakers rejected Bush's plan as a symbolic stunt.
The move will have no practical effect unless Congress acts, too. Both executive and legislative bans must be lifted before offshore exploration can happen.Bush had called on Congress a month ago to go first, then reversed himself on Monday. He said the country could no longer afford to wait.
"The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden. "Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court."
"Democratic leaders can show that they have finally heard the frustrations of the American people by matching the action I've taken today, repealing the congressional ban, and passing legislation to facilitate responsible offshore exploration," Bush said.
The president's direct link between record gas prices and offshore drilling glossed over a key point. Even if Congress agreed, the exploration for oil would take years to produce real results. It is not projected to reduce gas prices in the short term. Even the White House routinely emphasizes there is no quick fix.
Under Bush's proposal, states would help decide how drilling would be conducted off their shores. It is unclear how much oil would be available. Bush said it could eventually be enough to produce 10 years' worth of America's current oil production.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, called Bush's move "a very important signal" and prodded his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, should drop his opposition to offshore drilling. "If we can show that we have significant oil reserves off our coasts, that will clearly affect the futures market and affect the price of oil," McCain said.
Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by leasing, for a time period without specific expiration, those areas of the Outer Continental Shelf designated as of July 14, 2008, as Marine Sanctuaries under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431-1434, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.
Nothing in this withdrawal affects the rights under existing leases in these areas.
GEORGE W. BUSH
The primary federal law governing development of oil and gas in federal waters is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). As stated above, the OCSLA codifies federal control of the OCS, declaring that the submerged lands seaward of the state’s offshore boundaries appertain to the U.S. federal government. More than simply declaring federal control, the OCSLA has as its primary purpose ‘expeditious and orderly development [of OCS resources], subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs....’ To effectuate this purpose, the OCSLA extends application of federal laws to certain structures and devices located on the OCS, provides that the law of adjacent states will apply to the OCS when it does not conflict with federal law, and, significantly, provides a comprehensive leasing process for certain OCS mineral resources and a system for collecting and distributing royalties from the sale of these federal mineral resources. The OCSLA thus provides comprehensive regulation of the development of OCS oil and gas resources.
which have most often taken the form of limitations on the use of appropriated
funds. Congressionally imposed moratoria have been imposed since the early
1980s and have been approved annually thereafter. In 1990, President Bush issued
a directive essentially paralleling the congressionally mandated moratoria, prohibiting
most oil and gas development outside of the offshore areas associated with (though
not belonging to) Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. This presidential withdrawal
was to be effective until after the year 2000. In 1998, President Clinton issued a new
executive branch moratorium, lasting until June 30, 2012. The Clinton order refers
to the 1997 congressional moratorium and adopts the substance of that enactment
expressly, which itself included by reference those areas covered by the 1990
withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”). The
President’s Memorandum on Withdrawal asserts that the presidential authority for imposing
the OCS moratorium is contained in section 12(a) of the OCSLA. The statement also
indicates that withdrawal from leasing is also authorized under those portions of the Marine
Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 authorizing the President, under certain
circumstances, to establish marine sanctuaries and to impose certain levels of environmental
protection within those sanctuaries. Notably, this presidential statement does not cite any
inherent, constitutionally-based executive authority for executive control of OCS resources,
and none is immediately apparent. In general, Congress, acting pursuant to its constitutional
authority over federal property and U.S. territories and its authority over foreign and
interstate commerce, has sufficient constitutional authority to regulate OCS resources.