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Hoyer: No Plans to Reinstall Offshore Drilling Moratorium

For environmentalists hoping that the new Democratic margins in Congress might lead to the return of a decades-old moratorium on offshore oil drilling — you might not want to hold your breath.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday that Democrats have no plans to reinstate the drilling ban, which Congress let expire at the end of September amid a charged partisan debate over sky-high gas prices. Instead, Hoyer said party leaders will probably search for ways “to delineate” the vast swaths of ocean now available for drilling.

“At this point in time, no one is suggesting that we return to the same position we were in [before the ban expired],” Hoyer said. “We’re going to be looking at parameters, not necessarily reinstatement of the [moratorium].”

President-elect Barack Obama could also reinstate a (separate-but-equal) White House ban, which President George W. Bush repealed over the summer. Obama, however, has welcomed expanded offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy reform package. He’s given no indication that he would reinstall the presidential ban next year.

Meanwhile, fuel prices have nosedived since the drilling debate peaked in August, leaving oil companies with much less incentive to expand their expensive deep-sea drilling operations. If prices stay low, environmentalists can probably sleep well, even if the ban isn’t reinsated.

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