Gore pledges to ban all new drilling in federal waters off Florida and California

Oct 21, 1999 02:00 AM

Going a step beyond current policy, Vice President Al Gore pledged to ban all new offshore oil drilling in federal waters off the coast of Florida and California. "This coastline is too valuable to not take action now", he said. The Democratic presidential candidate also said he would fight to stop drilling in federal waters off of all states "where the public clearly opposes it" even if companies already have received offshore leases from the government.
"I will take the most sweeping steps in our history to protect our oceans and coastal waters from offshore oil drilling", Gore said in a statement. "I will make sure that there is no new oil leasing off the coast of California and Florida." A long-time environmentalist and author of "Earth in the Balance", Gore said his plan would go further than current Clinton administration policy that permits limited new drilling in leased areas. Gore's plan would cover existing and future leases.
Gore issued the proposal amid a fight in California over the future of undeveloped leases in federal waters off the southern part of that key electoral state. In California, owners of 36 leases who have yet to begin drilling still have the right to do so. But any new drilling is on hold until the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service finishes a $ 1.5 mm feasibility study. The state also has 43 active drilling sites.
Gore's campaign also plans a television ad in California promoting the proposal. "We need to protect our oceans and beaches, and if elected president I'll do that", Gore says in the ad. "To be good stewards of our earth we must create a future worthy of our children." Gore's proposal would go further to protect the environment than recent Clinton administration moves on offshore drilling.

Last year, President Clinton signed an executive order extending until 2012 the existing ban on offshore oil drilling, which was to expire in 2002. But while the ban protected virtually all of the North Atlantic and Pacific coasts, south-west Florida, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and southern Alaska, it did not stop existing rigs from drilling for oil. It also would have allowed additional rights to go up in southern California if oil companies acted on the 36 "undeveloped" leases.
Gore, however, would extend the ban on offshore drilling, on current and future leases, to include all federal waters off of Florida and California. Companies in both states already have spent billions of dollars to secure the rights to drill in the waters that Gore would place off limits, and his plan does not include reparations for companies that bought the leases.
"We are not in the business of appeasing those companies", said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane. "We are in business of protecting our coasts and our waters." An industry spokesman said Gore's proposal would force companies to find new drilling sites overseas, which he argued would hurt the U.S. economy and increase dependence on imported oil and natural gas.
"To make such a ban really ignores theneed for natural gas and oil to be produced domestically", said Mark Rubin of the American Petroleum Institute. "The bottom line here is that because we are limited in our access to federal lands, the companies are forced to spend their exploration budgets overseas and this is going to simply further that."
At least one environmental group applauded the plan. "These are two highly desirable places for complete protection", said Bruce Hamilton, national conservation director for the Sierra Club. "It is great news to hear that a leader of his stature is taking a stand to protect both coasts.

Source: AP
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