WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush today lifted the executive moratorium held on exploration in specific areas in the US outer continental shelf. But Congress must vote to withdrawal its ban before exploration can happen.
"With this action, the executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away," Bush says. "This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the US Congress. Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court."
"Congress will have the opportunity to be heard on this issue through the Appropriations process coming up shortly," says US Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The MMS estimates about 574 million acres of the US OCS are off limits, representing about 85% of OCS acreage offshore the lower 48 states. Estimated resources in the banned areas are 17.8 Bbbl of oil and 76.5 tcf of natural gas (mean estimates), according to the MMS.
"And advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills," Bush says.
Bush's withdrawal does not clear restrictions within existing marine sanctuaries. Also, areas near Florida are off limits until 2022 under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.