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Offshore Oil Update

In a mixed bag of news for opponents of offshore oil drilling, the U.S. Senate recently rejected a bill that would have expanded offshore drilling projects but at the same time, is thinking about increasing oil development in other areas.

The defeated bill, proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seemed to favour the oil industry by proposing to limit the amount of time given to federal agencies to review projects and drilling permits. Many environmental agencies, such as EarthJustice, had criticized the bill as an attempt to “weaken oversight of offshore drilling”. The Senate rejected the Senate Bill 953 in a 57 to 42 vote.

Environmental advocates are cautiously pleased with the decision. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, warns that the “fight is far from over” and suggests that the U.S. concentrate on finding alternative energy solutions while at the same time, making oil drilling a safer process.

oil rigInterestingly, the defeat of the Republican bill comes at the same time as President Obama proposes to accelerate environment impact reviews for drilling projects in certain parts of the Atlantic Coast. He is also considering further development and leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean. Development in these areas had been on halt since the BP spill and many groups are not happy to see it revisited.

The Center for Biological Diversity is one of several groups urging a cessation of offshore drilling projects until the enactment of several key environmental and safety reforms. In contrast to Obama’s proposals, the Center urges the government to enact a ban on oil drilling in the Arctic where an oil spill could easily devastate an already fragile ecosystem. Whether these concerns will be taken into consideration remains to be seen.

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