The Natural Gas Supply Association and Independent PetroleumAssociation of America made their displeasure clear over PresidentBill Clinton’s decision last week to extend a moratorium onoffshore drilling. “Cleaner air and increased use of affordable,clean-burning natural gas depend on access to the large natural gasfields off the nation’s coasts,” said NGSA President Nicholas Bush.”Continuing today’s severe restrictions on offshore natural gasproduction is simply not in the nation’s best interest.”

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

“The areas placed off limits by President Clinton contain someof 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 offshoreexploration and production that were issued in the 1980s andcontinued through a Bush administration executive order andcongressional actions. “We can produce offshore gas and oil safely,without significant environmental risk, and in ways that providejobs and help reduce the economic risks associated with energyimports.

“It is paradoxical that, on the one hand, the Clintonadministration strongly supports the use of natural gas while atthe same time it restricts access to the most promising productionareas. In order to use gas, we have to produce it.”

Bush said 27% of domestic gas production comes from the offshoreand the average Gulf of Mexico gas well produces 10 to 30 times asmuch as a typical onshore well. “The U.S. has significant potentialonshore reserves. But given the productivity of offshore wells, itwould be very difficult for onshore wells alone to make up fordepleting reserves. Furthermore, a continuing string of federalactions is increasingly denying us access to onshore natural gasresources.”

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