Environmental Defense today said opening new areas of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling would threaten economically important marine life there and could despoil Florida's pristine beaches. Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced today that 1.5 million acres of what was formerly known as Lease Sale 181 in the Gulf will be opened for drilling. The House voted to delay the sale two weeks ago.
"Opening a new 1.5 million acre swath of the Eastern Gulf to oil drilling unnecessarily threatens marine life with pollution and puts Florida beaches at a much greater risk for spills," said Environmental Defense marine conservation advocate Richard Charter. "Given the environmental risks and the bipartisan opposition from Congress, going ahead with new drilling, even in a smaller area than originally proposed, seems like an ill-considered move by the Bush administration."
"Much of Florida's economy depends on its successful coastal tourism and fisheries industries," said Charter. "Drilling poses an unacceptable level of risk to two of Florida's most important economic sectors. Opening more of the Gulf to drilling now makes little environmental, economic or political sense."
The proposed new offshore drilling lease sale unveiled today is the first of two pending announcements from the Bush administration. Still to be announced is the administration's decision about whether or not to permit offshore production platforms to be constructed by Chevron on active offshore leases on Destin Dome, adjacent to the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle.