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Clinton extends moratorium on offshore oil drilling

Clinton extends the ban on drilling for oil and natural gas in certain offshore U.S. waters  

In this story:

June 12, 1998
Web posted at: 7:31 p.m. EDT (2331 GMT)

MONTEREY, California (CNN) -- President Clinton signed an order Friday extending a ban on most offshore oil drilling for 10 years and permanently protecting national marine sanctuaries from oil and gas drilling.

With scenic Monterey Bay behind him, Clinton also promised to stop the degradation of coral reefs in U.S. waters and proposed spending an extra $194 million over five years to reduce overfishing and protect fish habitats.

"Our oceans are the key to the life-support system for all creatures on this planet," he said in a speech before the National Ocean Conference.

Challenges Congress for funds

In his remarks, Clinton challenged Congress to fund a $2.3 billion clean water plan to reduce the pollutants running from the land into streams and the ocean.

"We have to make this an issue that transcends party and other philosophical differences," he said.

The decision to extend the moratorium on oil drilling, which was first imposed by President Bush in June 1990, was expected, even though the current ban does not expire until 2002.

Environmentalists wanted the ban to be permanent, but Clinton said limiting the extension to 10 years would allow the government to review the matter in light of future advances in science and technology.

The drilling moratorium applies to virtually all the coasts.

Drilling controversy erupted 3 decades ago

oil platform
A ban on drilling in most California waters has been in place for several years  

North America leads the world in the number of oil drilling platforms -- about 3,100.

But the number of drilling platforms has been on the decline in recent years, partly due to concern over the impact oil and gas drilling has on marine life.

Oil and gas leasing and drilling are prohibited on most of the outer continental shelf, excluding the Gulf of Mexico and some waters off Alaska. The shelf is the area off the U.S. coast that is submerged in relatively shallow water at gradually increasing depths, generally up to about 600 feet below sea level.

Many officials from coastal states oppose offshore drilling because of the risk of oil spills that can ruin beaches. Environmentalists want offshore drilling to stop, to protect the oceans from further pollution.

Controversy over offshore drilling first surfaced in the United States in 1969, after a cracked sea floor led to a huge oil spill off Santa Barbara, California.

During the 1970s, when many Arab nations launched an oil embargo, many U.S. officials pushed for the exploration of offshore drilling sites off U.S. shores.

Environmentalists responded by turning up the volume on their cries against offshore drilling.

Voting against drilling

Clinton and Gore examine tidal pools off the coast of Monterey  

By the 1980s, the issue began appearing on ballots.

California voters in 26 coastal communities passed initiatives that provided no zoning to accommodate onshore facilities for companies pursuing offshore oil development.

The state later passed a permanent ban on oil drilling in California waters, with the exception of areas off Santa Barbara and Orange County, covered by pre-existing leases.

The moratorium Clinton is extending was established by his predecessor, President Bush, and expires in 2002. The presidential moratorium is separate from a year-to-year moratorium imposed annually by the Congress since 1981.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther and Reuters contributed to this report.

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