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Scientists Back Reduction in Coastal Drilling

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have recommended dramatically scaling back oil drilling plans off U.S. coasts and have proposed a ban on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic until oil companies significantly improve their ability to prevent and clean up oil spills.

The non-binding recommendations to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar represent a stark reversal from the pro-drilling policies of the Bush administration; the new administrator of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, is an oceanographer who has vowed to restore science to federal environmental policy.

The NOAA scientists recommended excluding large tracts of coastline off Alaska, the Atlantic seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and California from a proposed 2010 to 2015 drilling plan that had been pushed by the Bush administration.

The scientists said the previous plan understated the risks that oil exploitation posed to marine life and coastlines. In recommending the temporary Arctic drilling ban, the scientists expressed concern about the impact of potential oil spills on commercial and subsistence fisheries in the North Aleutian Basin and Chukchi Sea.

In the video below, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco talks about how public attitudes toward climate change are shifting. She spoke at the conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists last weekend.

Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.

[photo credit: Flickr]