President Barack Obama has directed that no new offshore oil drilling leases be issued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the explosion that unleashed the massive spill threatening the Gulf Coast with major environmental damage.
Mr. Obama ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to report within 30 days on what new technologies are needed to tighten safeguards against oil spills from deep water drilling rigs.
“We are going to make sure that any leases going forward have those safeguards,” Mr. Obama said at a White House Rose Garden event.
The president sought to reassure the jittery Gulf Coast that Washington is on top of the mounting oil spill crisis, saying people’s livelihoods and a region’s ecology are at stake.
His declaration on future lease sales is not expected to have any immediate impact.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said no oil production is being halted and there are no new drilling lease sales in the pipeline for the 30-day period Salazar has to get the report back to Mr. Obama. Oil rigs and platforms currently operating in the Gulf are being inspected by the Interior Department.
Interior has two lease sales scheduled for Gulf waters later this year and four more in the Gulf and off Alaska in 2011. The first offshore leases under an expanded drilling plan announced by Mr. Obama a month ago would be issued for waters off the Virginia coast in 2012 at the earliest.