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For Immediate Release, May 6, 2010

Contact: Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Reeling From DOI Oil Spill Controversy, Obama Pulls Back From Offshore Oil Lease Sale in the Atlantic

New Drilling Still Moving Forward in Risky Arctic Waters

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Obama administration announced today that it is cancelling public hearings and indefinitely postponing comments on the environmental impacts of a proposed lease sale in the Atlantic, off the coast of Virginia. The lease lies in one the controversial areas that Interior Secretary Salazar expanded to allow offshore oil development after Bush lifted the moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic.

“I’m glad to see the president responding to the growing scandal over the Department of the Interior’s exemption of BP’s Gulf Coast drilling from environmental review,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “All new offshore oil drilling needs to be put on hold immediately.”

The notice cancels three public hearings scheduled in May and indefinitely postpones the comment period aimed at soliciting public input on the environmental effects of proposed Lease Sale 220. These opportunities for public participation are part of the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, a step required to move forward with offshore lease sales. Lease Sale 220 is scheduled to take place in 2011, opening a large area for oil development off the coast of Virginia in a few years. The Federal Register notice to be published tomorrow puts Lease Sale 220 on hold “pending a decision by the Secretary of the Interior.”

“The need to stop offshore oil drilling in the Arctic is even more pressing,” said Suckling. “Atlantic drilling would not have happened for a few years. The Interior Department has approved new offshore oil drilling in the Arctic for this July.”

“Opening Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic coast to new offshore oil drilling was the brainchild of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,” said Suckling. “The president should pull back from the entire Salazar plan, not just the Atlantic Coast portions.”

The Department of the Interior’s proposal to expand offshore oil development into new areas of the Atlantic, Arctic, and eastern Gulf of Mexico came only weeks before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Yet today the Department of the Interior was in federal court defending actions to drill in Alaska this summer.

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