Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The following post is cross-listed on the Chevron Program blog:

It’s official; the White House announced earlier today that the moratorium on deep water drilling which was not set to expire until November 30th is now being lifted. The announcement was made by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar during a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. Salazar explained:
“We have made and continue to make significant progress in reducing the risks associated with deepwater drilling” and therefore, “I have decided that it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set.”

Global Exchange is deeply disappointed by this decision to prematurely lift the ban. Antonia Juhasz, Global Exchange Energy Program Director, explained in a recent article:

IT SHOULD BE BLATANTLY CLEAR at this stage of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy that we are witnessing the failure of an entire system, rather than of one operator. Systemic solutions are therefore required. One obvious first step is a permanent moratorium on all offshore drilling—a model of energy extraction which the industry is unable to safely perform and the government is unable to adequately regulate.

Upon hearing the news about the drilling ban being lifted, Antonia had this to say (while in Alabama via phone, researching for her new book on the Gulf oil disaster:)

One very positive step of the Obama administration was putting in place a deeply needed moratorium on deep water drilling, but it seems that election year politics have lead to a quid pro quo in which the administration implemented extremely limited regulations on offshore drilling in exchange for an early lifting of the moratorium.

Environmental groups have been quick to respond to today’s announcement.

Sierra Club issued a press release on their website stating “The BP disaster was a wake up call, but our leaders keep hitting the snooze button.” Greenpeace included a link to “Tell Congress: Now New Drilling. Period” along with photos of their protest today.

The moratorium on deep water drilling was originally imposed on May 27th before a revised ban was enacted on July 12th and set to expire November 30th.

If you’re concerned about the ramifications of this early ban lifting, here are a few ways to take action and make your voice heard:
Tell Congress No New Drilling: Visit Greenpeace for an easy-to-fill-out form.
Call or email the White House: White House phone #s and email are here.