WASHINGTON – A historic environmental protection bill is in danger after a massive oil spill put a new focus on the perils of offshore drilling, a feature that was supposed to win wider support for the legislation.
The bill, supported by President Barack Obama, calls for new offshore drilling — a concession by environmentalists. But with the tragedy off the Gulf Coast growing daily, even conservationists who have waited a decade for the legislation are now saying it will fail if offshore drilling remains in the bill.
“When you’re trying to resurrect a climate bill that’s face-down in the mud and you want to bring it back to life and get it breathing again, I don’t think you can have offshore drilling against the backdrop of what’s transpiring in the Louisiana wetlands,” said Richard Charter, energy adviser to Defenders of Wildlife. “I think it’s flat-lined.”
Some Democrats, including two of New Jersey’s congressmen and both of its senators, threatened Friday to pull their support if offshore drilling is included in the bill designed to curb emissions of pollution-causing gases blamed for global warming.
Introduction of the legislation was postponed on Monday for an unrelated reason. The bill aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and it also would expand domestic production of oil, natural gas and nuclear power.
Obama called for new offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to central Florida, and the northern waters of Alaska. He also asked Congress to lift a drilling ban in the oil-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles from Florida beaches.