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Pelosi ‘All for’ Offshore Drilling Moratorium

As President Barack Obama prepared to announce a six-month ban on new deep-water drilling, Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested she would support a much broader moratorium on offshore drilling.

In the wake of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the California Democrat said she would “be all for” Obama reinstituting the moratorium that existed before 2008. But she signaled the political will doesn’t exist to impose it. “It would be very hard,” the top House Democrat told reporters Thursday at her weekly press conference.

President George W. Bush in 2008 lifted an executive order imposing a moratorium on new offshore drilling sites. And later that year, in the face of heavy Republican pressure amid soaring gas prices, Congress allowed a legislative moratorium to expire.

Pelosi channeled public frustration about the failure so far to stop the Gulf Coast spill, but she defended the Obama administration against complaints it hasn’t done enough to take control of the crisis. “We’re all impatient about this, because it should not have happened,” she said, laying blame instead with BP. “Oil companies have the responsibility to safely drill, and they have the responsibility to clean up if something goes wrong. That’s where the technology is; that is where the resources are. There isn’t really much — except to make sure that we have the proper regulation and the proper oversight — that the federal government does.”

Responding to reports that Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the Minerals Management Service — the troubled Interior Department agency charged with overseeing the energy and mining industries — has been fired, Pelosi said that office needs more fundamental reform. “You have an agency where the Bush pro-industry people are burrowed in,” Pelosi said. “There has to be a systemic change there, more than just personnel.”