Obama Appears Ready to Step Up to the Plate On Offshore Oil Drilling

Budget proposal would help build up critical programs and improve industry’s safety rating.

03-09-2011 // Peter LaFontaine
Oil rig burning

With all of the budget battles being fought these days, it can be easy to overlook good news from Capitol Hill. Conservation values and the environment are the focus of unprecedented assaults but, fortunately, the Obama Administration appears ready to step up to the plate when it comes offshore oil drilling: the President’s budget would bump up funding for Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the agency charged with overseeing that industry, allowing it to build up critical programs and improve the industry’s safety rating.

National Wildlife Federation and a half-dozen other national environmental organizations sent a letter to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, thanking him for making this a priority.

To avoid another BP disaster there needs to be an environmental cop on the beat," said Adam Kolton, Executive Director of NWF’s National Advocacy Center. "Adequately funding the Interior Department’s watchdog efforts is one of the most important things Congress and the Administration can do.”

NWF has been an outspoken voice demanding comprehensive reform since last summer’s tragedy, and the issue has become even more critical in the wake of BOEMRE’s recent decision to issue new deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to improving rig inspections and environmental assessments, DOI has proposed shifting some of the financial burden from taxpayers onto oil companies, which have benefitted for years from absurd subsidies for dirty fuels. Salazar and President Obama have been outspoken about the need for reform of these subsidies and the loopholes Big Oil has exploited to rake in ever-higher profits. The coalition letter commends Salazar for trying to cut off the open gusher of public funds, saying, “for far too long the public has subsidized these corporations’ massive profits while also bearing the ever-growing risks associated with offshore drilling, and this adjustment is both reasonable and fiscally prudent.”

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