March 31st, 2010
03:26 PM ET

Environmentalists critical of Obama drilling plan

Several environmentalists expressed disappointment and dismay over President Barack Obama's decision Wednesday to open key Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters to oil and gas drilling.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said David Rauschkolb, a Florida restaurant owner who organized anti-drilling rallies last month at several Gulf Coast beaches.

"Florida's legacy is clean water, clean beaches, sunshine and tourism. Every oil rig is a threat to tourism and coastal well-being. ... All it takes is one spill."

One leading critic of offshore drilling, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, vowed to fight Obama's plan.

Drilling off the mid-Atlantic Coast will endanger many of his home state's beaches and coastal economies, Lautenberg said. "An oil spill could create severe damage to coastal areas up to 500 miles from the location of the spill," he warned.

But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson - generally an opponent of offshore drilling near his state - said Obama's plan was a step in the right direction compared with other proposals under consideration. The president's plan would prevent drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coastline; an alternative proposal being pushed in the Florida Legislature would allow drilling within three miles of the coast.

"I've talked many times to [Interior Department] Secretary [Ken] Salazar and told him if they drilled too close to Florida's beaches, they'd be risking the state's economy and the environment," Nelson said. "I believe this plan shows they heeded that concern."

Wesley Warren, a director at the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, told CNN that the president's plan has positive and negative aspects.

"We disagree with the proposals for the outer continental shelf [in the Atlantic] that open the door for development," he said. But, he quickly added, he's pleased that the White House has withdrawn from consideration environmentally sensitive areas on the West Coast - including Alaska's Bristol Bay.

Warren said he's not surprised by the president's move, recalling that "as a candidate, he said he would consider greater development." Warren recommended, however, that the White House shift its focus.

"We would urge [the administration to] direct attention to real clean energy solutions, including finalizing clean fuel standards and developing renewable energy sources."

Because the president's proposal would open Atlantic coastal waters to drilling, Warren believes the plan "should be subjected to more extensive study of the environmental and economic risks."

A climate change group founded by former Vice President Al Gore in 2006 was sharply critical of the president's plan. It "continues our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, we cannot simply drill our way to energy security," said Maggie Fox, president of the Alliance for Climate Protection.

But another environmental organization said Obama's plan could boost support for passage of a climate change bill in Congress. "Now it's time for supporters of new drilling ... to step forward and support comprehensive legislation - including a limit on carbon pollution," said Steve Cochran, climate campaign director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Rauschkolb, a self-described beach lover who has surfed for 33 years, says he's certain the president's pronouncement won't be the last word.

"It doesn't make sense," he said. Rauschkolb told CNN he's working with fellow environmentalists to mount a June protest at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Henry Flynn

    The people who are against drilling must be communists. They want us to stay dependent on our enemies oil resources. Perhaps, they have stock in those countries and don't want to loose money!
    If they aren't communists, they must be irrational. The vast majority of Americans want us to be independent of our enemies, so the people who don't want us to be independent must be our enemies, also, but are in this country, making a profit from their enemies! Either way, we should ignore them and drill, baby DRILL!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. k

    no the people who are against it know in the long run it will hurt our world

    March 31, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    I wouldn't call those appose to drilling communist. The article even points out how drilling promotes the dependance on oil, whether it's foreign or not. Development in renewables would replace oil and there would be no need to drill and potentially endanger the environment and/or coastal beauty.

    March 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tommy Sayles

    I applaud Obama for taking on something that probably isn't popular with the Party he serves. I also agree with the Policy of lifting this ban. He is starting to regain my support as someone who is able to lead and get things done.

    April 1, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kyle

    I'm not sure but, DIDN'T HE RUN AGAINST THIS??

    April 1, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jodaddy

    Bogus b.s. Should have happened 20 years ago...but was stopped by who? None other than liberal entitlement democrats! Now with the new 35mpg mandate from the EPA this is simply a smoke screen.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. dawn marie

    I believe this needs to be thought out more. The repercussions could be very damaging if not done properly. I believe we are smart enough to find better ways. I think if it is not controlled very tightly we are going to look out our windows and find ourselves in one big drilling site. Companies and people that have no regard what so ever for the whole eco system will have a heyday..and it will be too late to correct. That is my fear. I think we should procede with caution.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. jonathan daniels

    I hope President Obama's plan will include the drilling for natural gas which will supply the fuel for most of the east coast electric energy. In the case of coastal environment, there must be a safe distance to promote drilling. Please support our energey independance.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. NA citizen

    Drill with caution and put high standards on car emmission and large cars & vans. Drill is just a short term solution. The longer term will be strict enforcement of emmission, smaller vechicles, efficient public transport like India & Europe. Develop a new transport industry both rail & road. All major cities should have public transport of European standard, lower tax for smaller & fuel efficient car tax through the roof those using lager cars. Replace the current 10 & 12 cylinder engine technology to fuel efficient 4 cylinder turbo charged engines that they have in Europe since 80s.

    April 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Geophysicist

    A Department of Energy report from 2007 found that new drilling won't have a significant impact on oil production before 2030, and determined that the ultimate impact on prices would be "insignificant" because oil is a globally traded commodity. Still, voter pressure could sway the debate. According to recent polls, between 55 and 60 percent of Floridians say they support new drilling off their coasts. In California, a slim majority—51 percent—now favor the idea. That number is up by about 10 points from a year ago. Some of these polls may be a bit misleading. A widely cited Rasmussen poll in June asked voters if they would support drilling "to reduce the price of gas," a connection that most experts say is dubious at best. But the polls nonetheless capture an attitude shift among coastal residents that politicians of both parties have been keen to acknowledge.

    Fact: Even if Congress opens up the 574 million acres now off limits along the outer continental shelf, tight supplies of equipment and labor will severely constrain exploration in the next decade. Only a limited number of shipyards are capable of building the necessary $700 million drilling rig, and many of the rigs being built today are going to Brazil, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, where the oil business is also booming. Even then, it usually takes at least seven to 10 years for the oil to start flowing.

    The Valdez killed some 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 orcas, and billions of salmon and herring eggs perished immediately.That vessel spilled 10.8 million U.S. gallons of crude oil into the sea, and the oil eventually covered 1,300 square miles (3,400 km2) of ocean (that's 35% of the Chesapeake bay)

    April 2, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jose A

    what does Al Gore has to say to this? or is President Obama forgetting about the environment? President Obama Carbon footprints are the biggest of all the previous presidents carbon footprints together. What an irony!

    April 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    Henry Fylnn you express your emotional concerns like a 3 year old. Grow up or go back and finish high school.

    April 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bo knows

    Everyone looks at this the wrong way.
    The Oil in the Atlantic is not worth the trouble at this point. I say use "their" oil up first. When its been depleted then drill baby drill whereever u want.
    What should be considered is the OIL in Gulf.
    IF we don't get on the boat soon...all the other countries drilling out there will take all the good fields.
    Save the Atlantic for later. Gulf NOW!

    April 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe c

    Drilling only prolongs the use of fossil fuels. Energy independence can be achieved easily without fossil fuels. Oil needs to be abandoned, and Yucca needs to be approved, along with reprocessing, funding for Geothermal, and most importantly grid restructuring. Seriously, drilling won't help at all.

    The oil won't be accessible for years and the effect on the national price will actually be higher because they will be assets of the national reserve, and any Atlantic hurricane will then "threaten reserve sources" drive prices up. Overall, it's a terrible idea.

    April 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    I wouldn't say they are Communists, however, it does seem illogical not to use our own reserves that tower over the resources of the entire Middle East combine. Further, in these tough economic times I see it as prudent to consider every possibility. We must be conscience of everything, not just the environment, but our own situation as well. There have been many studies done on offshore drilling, and many indicate limited climate damage resulting from them. I'm for the plan and hope the President can garner support.

    I would also like to add that if anything, this is Obama crossing the aisle. He is taking one of the most prominent issues from the McCain campaign and applying it to action. Bravo sir, bravo.

    April 4, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
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