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NGSA, IPAA Blast Clinton Offshore Ban Extension

NGSA, IPAA Blast Clinton Offshore Ban Extension

The Natural Gas Supply Association and Independent Petroleum Association of America made their displeasure clear over President Bill Clinton's recent decision to extend a moratorium on offshore drilling. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act moratorium covers nearly all of the coasts of the North Atlantic, California, Washington, Oregon, southwest Florida, New England, southern Alaska and the mid-Atlantic states.

"Cleaner air and increased use of affordable, clean-burning natural gas depend on access to the large natural gas fields off the nation's coasts," said NGSA President Nicholas Bush. "Continuing today's severe restrictions on offshore natural gas production is simply not in the nation's best interest."

Clinton added 10 years to the current ban, which is not set to expire until 2002. Environmentalists were pushing for a permanent ban, but Clinton said a 10-year extension would allow for government review after expected drilling technology advances. The ban applies to virtually all U.S. coasts. Clinton also ordered a permanent ban on new leases for oil and gas development in national marine sanctuaries.

"The areas placed off limits by President Clinton contain some of the brightest American prospects for major new discoveries," said Lee Fuller, IPAA vice president of government relations. "Discoveries that would ultimately create jobs, generate revenue, and allow us to move toward meeting this nation's energy needs. It's an opportunity lost, and it's bad national energy policy."

NGSA has been a long-time opponent of the moratoria on offshore exploration and production that were issued in the 1980s and continued through a Bush administration executive order and congressional actions. "We can produce offshore gas and oil safely, without significant environmental risk, and in ways that provide jobs and help reduce the economic risks associated with energy imports.

"It is paradoxical that, one the one hand, the Clinton administration strongly supports the use of natural gas while at the same time it restricts access to the most promising production areas. In order to use gas, we have to produce it."

Bush said 27% of domestic gas production comes from the offshore and the average Gulf of Mexico gas well produces 10 to 30 times as much as a typical onshore well. "The U.S. has significant potential onshore reserves. But given the productivity of offshore wells, it would be very difficult for onshore wells alone to make up for depleting reserves. Furthermore, a continuing string of federal actions is increasingly denying us access to onshore natural gas resources."

Joe Fisher, Houston

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