Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hannity falsely suggested only "liberals" oppose coastal oil drilling

Hannity falsely suggested only "liberals" oppose coastal oil drilling

Fox News host Sean Hannity falsely suggested that only "liberals" have opposed proposals to drill for oil in United States coastal waters. On the May 5 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity declared that a major "problem" with the U.S. energy supply is that "liberals in this country ... won't allow us to drill off the shores of the coast of California or Florida, the Great Lakes, national parks, designated areas, the 48 states, anywhere." In fact, Republican presidents and governors have also opposed coastal drilling: President George H.W. Bush enacted a moratorium banning coastal drilling, President George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both opposed plans to drill off the coast of Florida, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes coastal drilling in California.

Contrary to Hannity's suggestion that only "liberals" oppose coastal drilling, it was a Republican president who first placed the ban on such drilling still in effect today. The presidential moratorium on coastal drilling, which "applies to virtually all the coasts" was "first imposed by President Bush in June 1990," as noted when then-President Bill Clinton extended the moratorium on June 12, 1998. The moratorium applies to all "new federal unleased areas" [Los Angeles Times 4/25/05].

Further, the current President Bush blocked coastal drilling in Florida. In 2002, Bush reached a deal to "buy out mineral rights in the cypress swamps of the Everglades and off the white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico" on Florida's coast [The Washington Post, 5/30/02]. The Washington Post reported that the deal "could ... provide a political boost" to the reelection hopes of his brother Jeb, who called the move "good public policy"; The New York Times also reported that Gov. Bush acknowledged that it was "likely to help his re-election campaign."

Schwarzenegger has steadfastly opposed coastal drilling in California; in an April 4 letter to members of Congress, "California Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said the state is against 'any effort to lift the congressional moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing activities'" [Los Angeles Times, 4/25/05].

The Bush administration has flip-flopped on protecting California's coastal areas from drilling. After initially trying to facilitate drilling, the administration declined to appeal an adverse court decision that "temporarily blocked ... the renewal of 36 oil company leases while the state studies their potential environmental effects on the coast" and "upheld the right of the state to ban drilling on the leases permanently if it determines they threaten the coast or the state's fisheries" [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/03]. A March 31, 2003, Department of the Interior press release noted "the Bush administration's goal of protecting the scenic beauty of coastal California" and quoted Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's explanation of the administration's decision not to appeal: "Our administration strongly supports environmental protection and understands the importance of this issue to the people of California." But though the administration had pledged to buy back the leases to resolve the issue and prevent any drilling, "negotiations have stalled because oil companies are holding out for hundreds of millions of dollars more than federal officials are willing to pay" [Los Angeles Times, 2/12/03]. -- A.S.

— A.S.