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Letter to President Barack Obama

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

In light of the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reverse his decision to allow drilling for oil and gas off the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Straits of Florida Planning Areas. Joining him on the letter were Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

"The tragic accident last week involving the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico makes it abundantly clear that the costs and benefits of offshore drilling need to be reassessed," the Senators said in their letter. "Deepwater Horizon, which cost $600 million, is considered the most technologically advanced offshore oil rig in the world. … That is why we are so concerned about the possibility of a catastrophic accident off our shores."

The Senators fully concur with the President, who said today in remarks from the Rose Garden, "I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security, but I've always said it must be done responsibly, for the safety of our workers and our environment." For all these reasons, they are asking the President to "[P]lease remove the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Straits of Florida Planning Areas from further consideration for oil and gas exploration and development."

The full text of the letter follows:

April 30, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to exhort you to reconsider the policy you announced on March 31 with regard to opening certain Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) "frontier areas" to oil and gas exploration and development. Specifically, we are asking you to keep the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Straits of Florida Planning Areas off-limits to such activity. The tragic accident last week involving the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico makes it abundantly clear that the costs and benefits of offshore drilling need to be reassessed. We were pleased to hear that no additional drilling would be authorized until the cause of the accident is determined, but that seems to be only a temporary suspension. In our estimation, offshore drilling in the three Atlantic Planning Areas you propose to open presents an unacceptable risk to our coastal areas, fisheries, critical habitat, marine life, recreation, and tourism and other industries, especially given the relatively paltry reward in terms of potentially recoverable oil and gas resources.

According to new government estimates, it now appears that oil is escaping from the riser pipe that connected the Deepwater Horizon rig to the well 5,000 feet below and from two other points at a rate of at least 5,000 barrels each day. The depth of the leaking well is complicating efforts to trigger the "Blow-Out Preventer" and it will take several weeks at least to drill relief wells. At the current rate, within two months this oil spill will surpass the Exxon Valdez accident as the worst oil spill in our Nation's history. Given prevailing currents and winds, a spill of this magnitude on the eastern seaboard could easily reach States and fisheries north of the immediate Planning Area.

It's important to note that Deepwater Horizon, which cost $600 million, is considered the most technologically advanced offshore oil rig in the world. BP and TransOcean are experienced offshore operators. That is why we are so concerned about the possibility of a catastrophic accident off our shores.

Mr. President, when you announced your OCS policy at Andrews Air Force Base on March 31, you said, "drilling alone can't come close to meeting our long-term energy needs." We couldn't agree with you more. Please remove the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Straits of Florida Planning Areas from further consideration for oil and gas exploration and development.

We stand ready to work with you to develop and implement a comprehensive energy strategy that emphasizes conservation, renewables, nuclear power, and safely developing oil and gas resources on existing OCS and federal on-shore leases. The Atlantic seaboard has potential for providing renewable wind and wave energy. We should seek to exploit those clean, renewable energy resources, not OCS oil and gas.

Sincerely,

Benjamin L. Cardin
Robert Menendez
Barbara A. Mikulski
Frank R. Lautenberg
Sheldon Whitehouse
Bill Nelson


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