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 But, he quickly added, he's pleased that the White House has withdrawn from consideration environmentally sensitive areas on the West Coast - including Alaska's Bristol Bay.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. Rich

    Environmentalists critical of Obama drilling plan, they are against everything. The environmentalists need to go live on a island somewhere that they can control and not bother the rest of the world. This country is far behind because of the environmentalist, such as oil drilling,
    oil refineries, logging, etc. But they did not complain when Bush opened up several national parks to mining, not one wimp was hear.

    March 31, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  2. Obama Victim

    Sarah 1 Democrats 0

    March 31, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. It's really Sarah Palin's idea.......

    which Obama has now co-opted....remember "Drill Baby Drill" many more of Sarah's ideas will the community organizer adopt?

    March 31, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. CB

    Until someone has a better plan for the short term, drilling domestically is A key to our energy independence. We need to look more seriosly into nat gas for all commercial vehicles.

    March 31, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Not happy about this either. Though I can understand Obama wanting to compromise in order to get cap/trade and other energy independence agendas more support.

    March 31, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. Bedtime for Obonzo

    This Republican supports more drilling, more nukes, more wind. Most of the lefty comments here will fall into one of two camps:

    1. "Now it's Obama's idea, so the GOP will be against it." Nope, not going to happen, stay tuned and watch. McCain's already on board.

    2. "Obama has broken his campaign promise to transition to the nation to free, environmentally sound, unicorn aura power." Well, yes he has. Sorry about that.

    March 31, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Dean

    Mr. Rauschkolb without economical gasoline it soon won't matter if Florida has clean water and clean beaches because no one will be able to afford to get to Florida to enjoy them or eat in your restaurant.
    Also check out the new oil drilling technology that exists today. It has become more efficient and a lot safer than in the past.

    March 31, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. Slider

    Then Lautenberg can send his money to me every time I fill up at the pump.

    See how hypocritical Democrats are about the energy needs of this country?

    If it ain't cap and trade it's dodge and weave.

    March 31, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. Tulsa

    to the morons who say that the President is changing his stance from the election, this is from Aug 3, 2008..... this very ticker;

    Obama said Friday that he would be willing to compromise on his position against offshore oil drilling if it were part of a more overarching strategy to lower energy costs.

    "My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama told The Palm Beach Post early into a two-day swing through Florida.

    But on Saturday morning, Obama said this "wasn't really a new position."

    "I made a general point about the fact that we need to provide the American people some relief and that there has been constructive conversations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on this issue," he said during a press conference in Cape Canaveral.

    "What I will not do, and this has always been my position, is to support a plan that suggests this drilling is the answer to our energy problems," Obama added.

    "If we've got a plan on the table that I think meets the goals that America has to set and there are some things in there that I don't like, then obviously that's something that I would consider because that's the nature of how we govern in a democracy."

    March 31, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. Not Blue, Not Red, but Purple

    Yes, let's continue to be dependant on others. That is the american way.

    March 31, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. Citizen disgusted with career politicians

    These environmentalists have no solution to energy independence, other than higher taxes and more deficit spending. We already have a $12 trillion debt the irresponsible and immoral ways of government must stop! Therefore in the meantime we must develop new sources of domestic energy including oil, nuclear, solar, wind and natural gas. We cannot continue to depend on Middle East oil.

    March 31, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. terry,va.

    What's there to protest? He said he would consider drilling. Tests will be done until at least 2012. This is with a wink and an nod to his base knowing he wouldn't do it. It's all smoke and mirrors to try to get some Independent and Repub voter support. Anyone that has a pea brain knows he is not serious. It's just some bait for cap and trade legislation.

    March 31, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. david

    if this was bush lifting the ban all liberal nazis and their families would be all over this....just shows we are now living in the occupied liberal nazi divided stats...america is dead

    March 31, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Obama the Liar

    will you whacko enviromentalist go cry me an oil spill...back to your global warming fear mongering.

    March 31, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Mr. Moderate

    I always get a kick out the fact that so many on the right see Obama as some dangerous leftists. The leftists are upset at him too!

    March 31, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. John D

    Let em drill. Tired of these environmentalists. Go spout your bull in countries that are really doing damage.

    CNN, wake up. The scum liberal left big mouths you keep letting post their hate is the reason you have no ratings. They are the real problem with this country.

    March 31, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. wwf

    It is time the special interests get off of their high horse and start worrying about today. That goes for any special interest group. Start worring about the entire country as a whole with all of its problems instead of just your little part of the world.

    March 31, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. DJK

    Go hug a tree hippie!

    March 31, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Nunya

    Remind me again how Obama is a far left politician instead of a moderate...?

    March 31, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. Jefe

    They'd best be setting some of their tens of billions of dollars in quarterly profits aside to pay for their own repairs when the hurricanes take out their platforms. Other than that concern, does it make more sense to drill new platforms offshore when there's hundreds (if not thousands) of capped wells in Texas already?

    March 31, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  21. Kelly

    Finally I agree with Obama.........we need to drill and quit depending on foreign oil.

    March 31, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Somewhere between "drill baby drill" and "not in my backyard" there is a medium, although not necessarily a happy medium. Maybe this is what the president is striving for.

    March 31, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. stillfedup

    What else are we supposed to do? Rely on foreign oil, keep lining the pockets of those in the countries who hate and are out to destroy America? I am all for alternative energy, but this country is not equipped to provide alternative energy sources to everyone. How many can afford a $37,500 Volt? or a $25,000 Leaf?, keep in mind, the Leaf only has a max range of 100 miles and the Volt uses gas and electric. Can an environmentalist please tell me a viable and sustainable alternative to gas/oil that is ready for a full scale roll out to the American people? Please, I am all ears.

    March 31, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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