Obama to announce oil drilling and leasing moratoriums

Six month moratorium on new deep water well permits; lease auctions off Virginia and Alaska coast put in suspension. Partial ban on new spuds-

There is finally action by the Administration on oil leases and permits to drill in various places off-shore. It is expected that today the President will announce there will be no new deepwater wells spudded (to begin drilling)  in the next 6 months.  Oil lease auction sales in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the Virginia Coast are said to be canceled.  A freeze or cancelation of lease auctions is very important because once bought, cancellation of a lease by the government requires the government to repay the leaseholder. That can require a lot of money.

Lease sales and spudding in the Arctic Ocean (oh, my god, they were going to do that?) are on hold.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see if BP was successful in their “top kill” of the big oil gusher under the Gulf of Mexico.

It occurs to me that one reason why the Administration might have been slow on this is that BP holds an important card.  If BP walks away, it’s not like the government has the knowledge or the resources to kill the gushing, ruined well.

AP source: Obama extends stop on deepwater wells. By Erica Werner and Charles Babington. Associated Press.

Update on May 28. U.S. to stop drilling already underway on 33 deepwater rigs! Reuters.

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Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf (map). New York Times.





  1. codecrackx15 Avatar

    People against offshore oil drilling make no sense at all. Regardless of if America cancels contracts and forbids it, Venezuela and China are both just off our shores, some 30 miles out and guess what they are doing? Drilling for OIL.
    So instead of us doing it and being less dependent on the Middle East and Venezuela all of you anti drilling folks would rather put us in a weaker position.
    What happens if one of those foreign rigs go down? Those countries can just pull out and let the oil flow. At least if it is us drilling there is some shred of accountability.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    This is your first comment here, so you might not be aware we have discussed alternatives to the current system many times.

    As far as the foreign drillers go, it appears from various news reports that almost all off-shore operations are more careful with more provision for stopping or containing damage than the sloppy leasing and inspection by the U.S. Minerals Management Service and the companies operating under the jurisdiction of the United States.

    Please do a quick web search to find articles describing the safety violations.

  3. jdubya Avatar

    The politics of claiming the gov’t should take over the BP mess are just stupid. The gov’t has no expertise, equipment or personnel to kick BP out of the way. The best they could do would contract out to Exxon or Conoco-Phillips or some other gulf operator to come fix the well. They wouldn’t have any quick fixes either.

    The fact is that we have the technology to drill and we have the technology the safeguard the drill, but the means to fix a catastrophe are sorely lacking. This is a perfect example of the need for gov’t regulation on private enterprise. If left without regulation, these companies would use few safeguards, and walk away in the case of a mess. I heard this am that the parent drilling company is actually licensed out of the USA in part to avoid gov’t scrutiny.

    And it is the perfect time and reason to impose a carbon tax to decrease the use of oil and coal, and use the tax money to fund renewable energy projects. It was a good idea when Jimmy Carter proposed in the late 70’s and it remains the most viable way to curb our addiction to fossil fuels.

  4. Dewey Avatar

    For what it is worth , Obama just fired the director of the Minerals Management Service, Liz Birnbaum.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Cnn, this morning reported she was fired, but by time it is all said and done, as normal, it will be said she resigned under pressure, that is the way it works in political circles. There is not much difference in being fired, or being asked to resign…

    2. RLMiller Avatar

      New acting head of MMS to be Bob Abbey of BLM. Do people here know anything about him? I figured that this blog will have a better handle on him than any other location in cyberspace.

    3. JimT Avatar

      Bob A. comes from a government and BLM background. Seems to enjoy a good relationship amongst the enviros out here in the West. Personally, not sure I would go to an agency as corrupt as MMS, or one that may be radically transformed or eliminated (doubtful), and it leaves a huge gap at BLM, another agency that needs an overhaul in culture and operational priorities.

      Let me float something here…what about transferring MMS to NOAA? Or at least the part of it that deals with off shore leasing? Perhaps folks need to contact their DC reps, and put a bug in their ear. Seems logical to me.

  5. Dewey Avatar

    Quit or be Fired…end justifies the means. They could both say they’re right , and I’ll buy into that

    —and I just found this gem of a story at the Daily Beast:

    It’s a well investigated followup to info I posted last week about Wyoming’s own Randall Luthi being at the heart of the BP mess coming and going. Luthi—former Speaker of the Wyoming House and a lawyer who specialized on oil and gas leasing and especially royalties—was named Direcotr of Mienrals Management Service in @008 and served till Obama took office. During tha time he boosted Categorical Exclusions and made MMS even MORE friendly to industry ( read: changed the sheets from cotton to silk and invited all of them into bed). R. Luthi took his new job in March after his year of lobbying probation expired after leaving the administration . He’s now the head of the offshore industry lobbying group, National Offshore Industries Association. Luthi used to work for Dick Cheney. He’s going to GREAT lengths to diminish his media exposure during this BP debacle, but he can’t hold ’em off forever.

    Turns out another Luthi , his cousin Jeff, is the head Clerk in the court machinery that allocates the various lawsuits resulting from the BP spill, and their ilk.

    The Daily Beast has their goat.

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Why is it that almost everyone who goes to Washington from Wyoming turns out to be an absolute shit?


  7. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    Does it really reduce our dependence on foreign oil if BP and other multinational companies drill off of our coasts? Dont they just take that oil and sell it on the international market? If this were the case a barrel drilled here would be equal to a barrel drilled in Saudi Arabia. I could see the argument working if we had state run oil companies drilling oil in america exclusively for the american market…

    1. JB Avatar

      State-run oil companies providing American oil to Americans vs. free market economics. Somebody should send that dilemma to Steven Colbert. LOL!

    2. Brian Ertz Avatar

      nationalize the oil/energy companies !

    3. Dewey Avatar

      A sidebar to the BP Gulf oil spill : three days ago there was a power failure up North , and the Alaska pipeline shut down , and oil was spilled there, too . ( Calgary Herald story at : http://www.calgaryherald.com/Alaska+pipeline+closed+indefinitely/3080136/story.html ) . The article says the pipeline will be closed ” indefinitely ” , just when gasoline prices were falling. Great timing all around.

      There was a spill up north, too. Not much news about THAT. I guess spills are relatively routine along the Alyeska line.

      One of the huge producers on the North Slope is…ta da!—BP. Actually , BP-Amoco. We seem to have forgotten that British Petroleum isn’t just British these days. It consolidated with the American Oil Company ( Amoco) in 1998, the old Standard Oil Co. that Teddy Roosevelt trust-busted. BP-Amoco in turn bought Arco in 2000 and Wyoming’s own Sinclair, the brandholders of that rusting refinery in the southern part of the state that has toxic spills and noxious releases with calendarical frequency.

      Sometimes the BP name and logo are used, other times it’s Amoco , occasionally Arco and Sinclair when it suits them but it’s the shotgun marriage of the two pseudo-sovereign national oil companies of American and English propriety. Investors know it as BP Global

      I guess what I’m saying is when we talk about this all being BP’s doing down in the Gulf, it is also very much American , by marriage if nothing else, and run out of Houston , land of blue eyed oilsheiks and good ole boyz.

  8. Nancy Avatar

    I can only imagine the excitement when that lucky individual first discovered the wheel. The technology is there to kiss off all dependancy on oil, foreign or otherwise – forever – if we humans would just stop talking about, get our s–t together and back the companies making the effort.

  9. JimT Avatar

    It appears that Liz B. was the sacrificial lamb when the resignation of the under secretary was not enough. Rumor has it that it was engineered by Salazar and Hayes. People I know here who have known her for decades say she is a very decent person, very smart, very dedicated and didn’t deserve this kind of treatment after only 10 months at an agency that had been a cesspool for decades. She was cut out of the “fix it” process from the very beginning, with the Obama folks relying on the Coast Guard folks. The fact that Obama didn’t know if she had been fired or resigned at his press conference yesterday signals to me that Big Hat Ken and Hayes did this on their own, as they have in the past. Word is that Salazar and Hayes are real bas**ds to work for as well…


  10. timz Avatar

    This action is somewhat meaningless as many foreign oil companies over which Obummer has no juristiction will continue to drill in the gulf.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      This URL is subcription only.

  11. JimT Avatar

    One can sign up…it is free. It is an article worth reading…

  12. JimT Avatar

    Here is the home page for the service. There is a place where you can start a trial….I did, and it hasn’t ended now for over a year. It has environmental news of all sorts.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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