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Moran asks Salazar to reconsider offshore drilling following Gulf oil well disaster

Anita Kumar

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, a Northern Virginia Democrat and chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for the interior and environment, is calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reconsider allowing offshore drilling after a fatal oil well accident off Louisiana's coast.

"Regardless of ideology, this situation should give everyone pause regarding expansion of offshore drilling," Moran said in a statement. "It is becoming increasingly likely that the Gulf States are looking at an economic and environmental disaster not seen since the Exxon Valdez."

President Obama announced last month that companies could start bidding on contracts to conduct exploratory drilling in Virginia's waters in late 2011 or early 2012.

"Virginia's fishing and coastal tourism industries are vital to the Commonwealth's economy,'' Moran said. "Should exploration off Virginia's coast result in a similar disaster, the impact would be devastating to our economy and coastal communities' way of life."

The April 20 exploratory well explosion and fire left 11 workers missing and presumed dead.

"Before any activities are allowed to proceed under any drilling permits or leasing actions, in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska or in the Atlantic, we need to fully understand the scope of the problems that have led to the dire economic and environmental situation currently facing Gulf Coast states," Moran said.

Read Moran's full letter below:

April 29, 2010

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Mr. Secretary,

As I monitor media accounts about the Deepwater Horizon well's continued release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I cannot help but question whether existing response capabilities have been adequate. Efforts to capture the escaping oil in a funnel-like device had never been tested at depths of 5,000 feet and the 450-ton valve at the wellhead, known as a blowout preventer, cannot be engaged remotely and has been difficult to manipulate using remote-controlled submarines. Should these efforts fail, there is a very real possibility that up to 300,000 barrels of oil could be released into the Gulf's waters before crews can cap the spill by mounting a second drilling operation that could take up to two months to complete.

If the drilling industry is incapable of capping a blowout in temperate waters in a region with more than 80 years of offshore experience in the close proximity of equipment, manpower and technical expertise, I have grave doubts about the industry's response capabilities in the frigid Arctic waters off Alaska's coast.

I encourage you to assess what should be required in response capabilities before activities are allowed to proceed under any drilling permits or leasing actions, in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska or in the Atlantic.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

James P. Moran

By Anita Kumar  |  April 30, 2010; 9:41 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , James P. Moran Jr.  
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