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National Archives

Public Papers - 1990

Statement on Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Development


I have often stated my belief that development of oil and gas on the outer continental shelf (OCS) should occur in an environmentally sound manner.

I have received the report of the interagency OCS Task Force on Leasing and Development off the coasts of Florida and California and have accepted its recommendation that further steps to protect the environment are needed.

Today I am announcing my support for a moratorium on oil and gas leasing and development in Sale Area 116, Part II, off the coast of Florida; Sale Area 91, off the coast of northern California; Sale Area 119, off the coast of central California; and the vast majority of Sale Area 95, off the coast of southern California, until after the year 2000. The combined effect of these decisions is that the coast of southwest Florida and more than 99 percent of the California coast will be off limits to oil and gas leasing and development until after the year 2000.

Only those areas which are in close proximity to existing oil and gas development in Federal and State waters, comprising less than 1 percent of the tracts off the California coast, may be available before then. These areas, concentrated in the Santa Maria Basin and the Santa Barbara Channel, will not be available for leasing in any event until 1996, and then only if the further studies for which I am calling in response to the report of the National Academy of Sciences satisfactorily address concerns related to these tracts.

I am also approving a proposal that would establish a National Marine Sanctuary in California's Monterey Bay and provide for a permanent ban on oil and gas development in the sanctuary, and I am asking the Secretary of the Interior to begin a process that may lead to the buyback and cancellation of existing leases in Sale Area 116, Part II, off southwest Florida.

In addition, I am directing the Secretary of the Interior to delay leasing and development in several other areas where questions have been raised about the resource potential and the environmental implications of development. For Sale Area 132, off the coasts of Washington and Oregon, I am accepting the recommendation of the Secretary that further leasing and development activity be deferred until a series of environmental studies are completed, and directing that no such activity take place until after the year 2000. I am also canceling Lease Sale 96, in the Georges Bank area of the North Atlantic, and directing that no leasing and development activity take place in this area until after the year 2000. This will allow time for additional studies to determine the resource potential of the area and address the environmental and scientific concerns which have been raised.

Finally, I am today directing the Secretary to take several steps to improve the OCS program and respond to several of the concerns expressed by the task force. My goal is to create a much more carefully targeted OCS program, one that is responsive to local concerns, to environmental concerns, and to the need to develop prudently our nation's domestic energy resources. Although I have today taken these strong steps to protect our environment, I continue to believe that there are significant offshore areas where we can and must go forward with resource development.

While I believe that a leaner OCS program will ultimately be more effective, Americans must recognize that the OCS program is a vital source of fuel for our growing economy. My desire is to achieve a balance between the need to provide energy for the American people and the need to protect unique and sensitive coastal and marine environments.

Note: The Office of the Press Secretary issued a fact sheet on the same day which provided the following additional information on outer continental shelf development:

Guiding Principles

The President's decisions were based on the following principles:

(1) Adequate Information and Analysis. Adequate scientific and technical information regarding the resource potential of each area considered for leasing and the environmental, social, and economic effects of oil and gas activity must be available and subjected to rigorous scrutiny before decisions are made. No new leasing should take place without such information and analysis.

(2) Environmental Sensitivity. Certain areas off our coasts represent unique natural resources. In those areas, even the small risks posed by oil and gas development may be too great. In other areas, where science and experience and new recovery technologies show development may be safe, development will be considered.

(3) Resource Potential. Priority for development should be given to those areas with the greatest resource potential. Given the inexact nature of resource estimation, particularly offshore, priority should be given to those areas where earlier development has proven the existence of economically recoverable reserves.

(4) Energy Requirements. The requirements of our nation's economy for energy and the overall costs and benefits of various sources of energy must be considered in deciding whether to develop oil and gas offshore. The level of petroleum imports, which has been steadily increasing, is a critical factor in this assessment.

(5) National Security Requirements. External events, such as supply disruptions, might require a reevaluation of the OCS program. All decisions regarding OCS development are subject to a national security exemption. If the President determines that national security requires development in the areas of these three lease sales or in other areas, he has the ability to direct the Interior Department to open the areas for development.

General OCS Decisions

The President also decided that:

(1) Air quality controls for oil and gas development offshore California should be substantially the same as those applied onshore.

(2) Immediate steps should be taken to improve the ability of industry and the Federal Government to respond to oilspills offshore, regardless of their source.

(3) Federal agencies should develop a plan to reduce the possibility of oilspills offshore from whatever source, including and especially from tanker traffic. This plan should include moving tanker routes further away from sensitive areas near the Florida Keys and the Everglades.

Restructuring the OCS Program

The President directed Interior Secretary Lujan to take three actions to improve the overall OCS program:

(1) Improve the information needed to make decisions on OCS development by conducting the studies identified by the National Academy of Sciences and studies to explore new technologies for alleviating the risks of oilspills from OCS platforms and new oil and gas drilling technologies, such as subsea completion technology.

(2) Target proposed sale areas in future OCS 5-year plans to give highest priority to areas with high resource potential and low environmental risk. This will result in offering much smaller and more carefully selected blocks of tracts.

(3) Prepare a legislative initiative that will provide coastal communities directly affected by OCS development with a greater share of the financial benefits of new development and with a larger voice in decisionmaking.

Lease Sale 96 in the North Atlantic

The President also directed Interior Secretary Lujan to consult with the Governors of the States whose residents would be affected by future development of oil and gas in the North Atlantic.

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