Environmental Defense Calls Senate Decision To Undermine Moratorium On Offshore Drilling "Shortsighted"

On June 12th, Environmental Defense criticized a 54-44 vote in the U.S Senate that narrowly rejected a proposed amendment to the Senate energy bill that would have removed a controversial provision calling for the use of seismic survey ships and other invasive technologies to look for oil and gas potential even within sensitive coastal areas long protected by a bipartisan congressional moratorium.

"America's coastal national treasures are suddenly in the path of destructive exploration technologies which threatens our fisheries and the economies of our coastal communities," said Richard Charter, marine conservation advocate with Environmental Defense. "This shortsighted provision will now need to be removed in the conference committee proceedings between the House and the Senate."

The rejected amendment, offered by Senators Bob Graham (D-FL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and others, would have deleted language in the current Senate energy bill requiring an evaluation of potential hydrocarbon resources within coastal waters now protected under a 21-year legislative moratorium and by executive leasing deferrals first put in place by former President George Bush, Sr.

The House of Representatives had previously removed a similar measure calling for offshore exploration from their own Energy bill in April. Since the House and Senate bills now disagree on this issue, the differences will need to be worked out in an upcoming joint House-Senate conference committee.

Today's Senate action, if signed into law, will undermine the existing offshore drilling moratorium that protects unleased coastal waters off of California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Alaska's Bristol Bay, and the entire east coast.

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