President Obama extended a moratorium Thursday on new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and on the North Slope of Alaska for another six months. The president, making the announcement at a midday news conference, also odered a halt to already planned exploratory deep sea drilling operations and canceled additional lease sales in the Gulf until a presidential commission issues its safety findings.
After offering support for expanded drilling operations earlier this year as part of his overall energy strategy, Obama is ordering the moratorium in the aftermath of the April 20 oil rig explosion and subsequent blowout of a BP deep-sea well in the gulf. One oil company, Shell, was set to go forward with an exploratory project this summer in the Arctic Ocean.
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), a drilling supporter, told the New York Times
he was informed of the moratorium extension by the Interior Department and expected it would "cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production." Extending the moratorium means canceling some leases that have already been approved.
Oil began spilling from the BP well within days of the explosion, sending tens of millions of barrels of oil surging into gulf waters and forming a slick that is fouling Louisiana beaches and marshlands.
In the gulf Thursday, BP's latest attempt to stop the spill -- this time by plugging the well with mud and cement -- appeared promising as it continued into a second day.