WASHINGTON — President Bush plans a renewed push to get Congress to end a long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling.
With oil prices soaring and motorists paying $4 a gallon for gasoline, political pressures have been growing for more domestic oil and gas production.
White House press secretary Dana Perino tells The Associated Press that Bush believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time. She says that on Wednesday the president will urge lawmakers to lift the ban on offshore drilling.
Congressional Democrats have opposed lifting those prohibitions. The ban has been in effect for more than 80 percent of federal Outer Continental Shelf waters for more than a quarter-century and includes both the East and West coasts.
Congress imposed the drilling moratorium in 1981 and has extended it each year since by prohibiting the Interior Department from spending money on offshore oil or gas leases in virtually all coastal waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico and in some areas off Alaska.
President George H.W. Bush imposed a separate executive drilling ban in 1990, which was extended by President Clinton and then by the current president until 2012.
Bush has been considering lifting the executive ban as a symbolic move to get Congress to take action, but he decided against doing so for the time being, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because internal deliberations were involved.
The House Appropriations Committee was scheduled to vote on legislation Wednesday that included a provision that would continue the drilling moratorium into late 2009. Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., planned to try to strip that provision from the bill. A proposal Peterson offered last week that would open all federal waters 50 miles from shore to oil and gas development was rejected by an Appropriations subcommittee on a 9-6 party-line vote.