[JURIST] US President George W. Bush issued a memorandum [presidential statement] Monday to the Secretary of the Interior, lifting an executive ban on offshore oil drilling [JURIST news archive] put in place in 1990 by then-President George H. W. Bush. Monday's action will have little practical effect because offshore drilling is still prohibited by a longstanding congressional moratorium. The limitation on the practice has been in place since 1981, and makes 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US off-limits for oil drilling. On Monday, the League of Conservation Voters condemned [press release] Bush's move as a reckless temporary solution to the current oil crisis. Reuters has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.
Last month, Bush called on Congress to relax restrictions on oil exploration [statement text; JURIST report], saying that it should also allow drilling to begin in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website] in Alaska. Bush argued that resources currently off-limits to energy companies could offset rising fuel prices. Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] in the Arctic, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require several years and a massive infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.