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New and Frozen Frontier Awaits Offshore Oil Drilling

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

WASHINGTON -- Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2010, the leaders of the commission President Obama had appointed to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico sat down in the Oval Office to brief him. After listening to their findings about the BP accident and the safety of deepwater drilling, the president abruptly changed the subject. "Where are you coming out on the offshore Arctic?" he asked.

William K. Reilly, a former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency and a commission co-chairman, was startled, as was Carol M. Browner, the president's top adviser at the time on energy and climate change.

Although a proposal by Shell to drill in the Arctic had been a source of dissension, it was not a major focus of the panel's work. "It's not deep water, right?" the president said, noting that Shell's proposal involved low-pressure wells in 150 feet of water, nothing like BP's 5,000-foot high-pressure well that blew out in the gulf.

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