Obama to Extend Moratorium on Deepwater Permits

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"How sweeping the president's new orders will be remains to be seen."

President Obama plans to announce that he is extending the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells for six more months as the head of the agency that oversees offshore drilling was forced to resign.

This comes amid deepening frustration and criticism of the administration's handling of the crisis. Obama's order is intended to halt further permits for new wells for six months, delay planned exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the coast of Alaska, cancel an August lease sale in the western Gulf and cancel a lease sale off the coast of Virginia, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the formal announcement.

At his news conference, Obama will announce standards to strengthen oversight of the drilling industry and enhance safety as the commission opens its inquiry.

The effort to stem further drilling represents a marked turnaround for Obama, who just weeks before the oil rig explosion, proposed to expand offshore oil exploration in response to the nation's continuing need for new energy sources.

How sweeping the president's new orders will be remains to be seen. After he ordered his initial moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers were granted, according to records. Since the April 20 explosion, the records show, federal regulators granted at least 19 environmental waivers for Gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits. The administration has said that the moratorium was meant only to halt permits for the drilling of new wells, not to stop permits for new work on existing drilling projects like the Deepwater Horizon.

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