Interior Department Suspends Virginia Oil and Gas Leases

Administration Action, Legislation Mirrors NRDC Request sent to President Obama

WASHINGTON (May 6, 2010) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council today welcomed the Interior Department’s decision to indefinitely suspend public meetings on potential offshore oil and gas drilling near Virginia. NRDC also endorsed a House bill introduced today to launch an investigation into the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Both actions are consistent with NRDC’s comments in a letter sent Tuesday to President Obama on the crisis still unfolding in the Gulf.

The Interior Department announced Thursday an indefinite postponement of planning for Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas Lease Sale 220 off Virginia.

“We are pleased that the Department of the Interior has indefinitely suspended plans for an oil and gas lease sale off the Virginia coastline, and urge that similar action be taken for other offshore oil planning processes and for new oil drilling activities, including off of Alaska this summer,” said Sarah Chasis, NRDC senior attorney and director of NRDC’s Ocean Initiative.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), introduced a bill creating an independent, non-partisan, “blue-ribbon” commission to investigate the causes of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as well as provide the President, Congress, and the public with recommendations to avoid such disasters in the future.

Similar commissions have been convened in the past to investigate disasters including the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island and the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle explosions.

“This oil spill is an economic, environmental and human catastrophe and we need a thorough and independent investigation into what caused this to happen, whether and how it can be prevented in the future and the ramifications for current and planned offshore drilling. This bill ensures that such an investigation occurs and is provided to the Administration, the Congress and the public,” Chasis said.

“Beyond what this investigation finds, this catastrophic oil spill demonstrates, yet again, that we need a national energy policy that confronts our disastrous addiction to oil by promoting a long-term shift toward sustainable and renewable power and fuels,” Chasis said.