March 31st, 2010
02:26 PM ET
13 years ago

Environmentalists critical of Obama drilling plan

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sen. Frank Lautenberg is a leading critic of offshore drilling."]Washington (CNN) - Several environmentalists expressed disappointment and dismay over President Barack Obama's decision Wednesday to open key Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters to oil and gas drilling.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said David Rauschkolb, a Florida restaurant owner who organized anti-drilling rallies last month at several Gulf coast beaches.

"Florida's legacy is clean water, clean beaches, sunshine and tourism. Every oil rig is a threat to tourism and coastal well-being. ... All it takes
is one spill."

One leading critic of offshore drilling, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, vowed to fight Obama's plan.

Drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast will endanger many of his home state's beaches and coastal economies, Lautenberg said. "An oil spill could create severe damage to coastal areas up to 500 miles from the location of the spill," he warned.

But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson - generally an opponent of offshore drilling near his state - said Obama's plan was a step in the right direction compared to other proposals under consideration. The president's plan would prevent drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coastline; an alternative proposal being pushed in the Florida legislature would allow drilling within three miles of the coast.

"I've talked many times to [Interior Department ] Secretary [Ken] Salazar and told him if they drilled too close to Florida's beaches they'd be risking the state's economy and the environment," Nelson said. "I believe this plan shows they heeded that concern."

Wesley Warren, a director at the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, told CNN there are both positive and negative aspects to the president's plan.

"We disagree with the proposals for the outer continental shelf (in the Atlantic) that open the door for development," he said. But, he quickly added, he's pleased that the White House has withdrawn from consideration environmentally sensitive areas on the West Coast - including Alaska's Bristol Bay.

Warren said he's not surprised by the president's move, recalling that "as a candidate he said he would consider greater development." Warren recommended, however, that the White House shift its focus.

"We would urge (the administration to) direct attention to real clean energy solutions, including finalizing clean fuel standards and developing
renewable energy sources."

Because the president's proposal would open Atlantic coastal waters to drilling, Warren believes the plan "should be subjected to more extensive study of the environmental and economic risks."

Rauschkolb, a self-described beach lover who has surfed for 33 years, feels certain the president's pronouncement won't be the last word.

"It doesn't make sense," he said. Rauschkolb told CNN he's working with fellow environmentalists to mount a June protest at Virginia Beach.

Filed under: Energy • Environmental policy
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You can't please everybody....

    We knew dissent was coming from SOMEWHERE.

    Oh well. Gotta keep moving forward though. So either help out or get out of the way.

    March 31, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. Obama Victim

    well the right hates Obozo...and now so does the left.....I guess maybe Michelle still likes least as long as she can go shopping

    March 31, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. Get Over It

    Florida needs to be more concerned about hurricane season rather than oil rigs.

    March 31, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. I'm sure the Wasilla Hillbilly is thrilled!!

    What? No Tweets or Facebooking from the Wasilla Hillbilly yet on this issue? I'm sure its coming soon....I'm sure she will agree with the President on her signature issue. Remember, McIdiot paraded her out on the national stage as an energy expert. LMAO!

    March 31, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. gt

    another idiot politicans who needs to retire,, we want jobs you moron,,,

    March 31, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. Bedtime for Obonzo

    There's a complete lack of surprise with this headline, brought to you by the people who believe our nation should be powered by unicorn auras.

    March 31, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. jeff jackson, alabama

    Wasn't Obama making fun of Palin's
    drill baby drill chant a year and a half ago?
    Palin was right then and she is right now.
    Obama is seeing the light of common sense !!!
    And guys......the Chinese are drilling just south
    of Florida NOW !!!

    March 31, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Former soldier

    So, I agree that this is not an environmentalists dream. And I support the environmentalists. However, and, I know that this type of thinking doesn't make for good news coverage on CNN or any other station, but, here is the reality. The President has, hold on to your hats, THOUGHT about this problem of energy security and oil dependency. So, he has seemingly, wait for it, put together, are you sitting down, a PLAN! Oh no, i realize that this is bad for the 24 hr news business, but, that is how thoughtful, intelligent people operate. So, he is saying, let's figure out a short term strategy for becoming less dependent on the most unstable part of the world for our energy needs so that we can build a long term set of solutions to the problem. BTW, I hope we tax the hell out of the oil companies who will profit from this and take those dollars and invest them into green technologies that can sustain us for hundreds of years. Oops, there we go again, long term thinking. SOrry about that. Maybe CNN should cover the ENTIRE energy plan he is laying out, not just the part that causes a fight. Too bad Fox News has corrupted the whole medium.

    March 31, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. Haze

    Frank Lautenberg looks like he is old enough to have seen the gusher at Spindletop.

    March 31, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. G

    Every environmentalist who I know who complains about drilling drives a normal car, uses packaged food, keeps their heat at a normal temperature and watches tv with the lights on....please people, lets grow up!!!! Drilling for oil helps our trade balance, our deficit, our unemployment and puts downward pressure on oil prices which will help the whole world show economic recovery. Yes we should conserve and use solar, wind and nuclear energy. But drilling more also makes sense...

    March 31, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. BOB

    Obama made no such decision...or announcement.

    What a bunch of Morons....reacting on "sound bites" and assumptions.

    Obama announced a STUDY to be done by the Interior Department....for the idea of drilling 50 miles out and further.....and it will report back in TWO YEARS.

    Of course it will provide no results that the Oil Companies don't already know.


    NOW.....Obama SOLD Clean Coal and Safe Nuclear.....all through his presidential campaign. 15 Months later.....NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING. Bad for his liberal base....ain't gonna happen.

    Obama Lies....alot.

    March 31, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  12. What else is new

    Libs claim to help the people yet when it comes to oil when people still use it and nothing has replaced it yet they care more about other things. Give me a break.

    March 31, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  13. Republicans are Americas Taliban

    I say if it is the coast of a Red State, drill baby drill right up to the beach, leave oil sludge everywhere who cares.

    March 31, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Can anybody out there tell me how much oil the OPEC nations have left for our supply for our entire livelihood or are we going to wait until they raise a barrell of oil to maybe $200 or $300 as a warning sign. If you think for one minute when OPEC's supply is low they will look out for the U.S. first then you have got to be lving in la la land. This President knows when and what is necessary to keep our country out of trouble.

    March 31, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. RML

    This is also a 180 from his campaign rhetoric – not much difference between the current President and the short-sighted "drill" crowd.

    March 31, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  16. Larry

    $500 billion a year to foreign governments for oil is a big threat too.

    March 31, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. Martha

    "Disappoinment and dismay" yep! that's our President

    March 31, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. SLM

    Didn't take long for the wackos to come out of the woodwork and complain. The same wacko's who complain about the offshore drilling are the same ones who complain about the price of gas!

    March 31, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. jp,michigan

    For Obama to change his tune about off shore drill, there has to be some kind of motive, for the drilling wouldn't start for several years. Could it have some thing to do with 'cap and trade'. ?

    March 31, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Then these "environmentalists" can shiver in their unheated houses in the winter, and broil in their un-air-conditioned houses in the summer, and ride their bicycles in rain and slush and ice and snow and baking sun.

    Personally, though, I like comfort.

    Environmentalists don't really get it that the way to solve environmental problems isn't to surrender, cower in your cave, and loudly assert that there's nothing that can be done to actually fix things.

    You have to give technology a chance, but the world's tree-huggers don't understand technology and innovation and therefore don't trust either.

    March 31, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Bertina

    I'm waiting for people to call Obama socialist over this.

    March 31, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Perry

    Drilling is not allowed around Florida's coasts. Florida's shores aren't in trouble unless there is an extremely large oil spill from one of the neighboring areas that floats Florida's way. But since there is already drilling in the Gulf, it has always been that way.

    Only the people who don't care if their coastlines get messed up, or if their view is affected, have their coasts open for new drilling.

    March 31, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. William, from Cali!

    When the "gods", the powers that be speak(Just Words)...we all must obey, them! Right.........Oh, how soon, do we forget!. Over a year! God Bless America!

    March 31, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  24. Joe

    We have enough natural gas in this county to act as a bridge fuel while we figure out other alternatives. When is Obama going to realize what a huge advantage this is? I can see more drilling ONLY if it is coupled with an aggressive new policy to develop our natural gas resources.

    March 31, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. Dano

    I live in Florida and it has been estimated that tapping the oil reserves off our coast would provide enough to power our country (at current rate of usage) for ONE WEEK. One week's worth of oil is not enough to chance ruining our beaches and our #1 industry, tourism. I'd bet a lot of folks in Virginia are thinking the same thing right about now.

    March 31, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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