"The federal government's top ocean scientists are urging the Interior Department to drastically reduce plans to open the coast to offshore oil and gas drilling, citing threats to marine life and potentially devastating effects of oil spills in Arctic waters.
The recommendations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are informal and not binding. But if adopted, they would restrict development in some of the nation's most resource-rich untapped offshore areas and mark a significant departure from the pro-drilling policies of the George W. Bush administration. They also give added -- and official -- weight to environmentalists' concerns.
In a letter sent to Interior officials last month, NOAA recommended excluding large tracts of the Alaska coast, the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico from Interior's draft offshore drilling plan for 2010 to 2015."