WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Friday directed that no new offshore oil drilling leases be issued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the explosion that unleashed the massive spill threatening the Gulf Coast with major environmental damage.
Obama ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to report within 30 days on what new technologies are needed to tighten safeguards against oil spills from deep water drilling rigs.
'We are making sure any leases going forward have those safeguards,' said Obama at a White House Rose Garden event.
The president sought to reassure the jittery Gulf Coast that Washington is on top of the mounting oil spill crisis, saying people's livelihoods and a region's ecology are at stake.
His declaration is not expected to have any immediate impact. Under the expanded leasing plan that Obama announced a month ago, the first offshore leases would be issued off the Virginia coast in 2012 at the earliest.
It's still unclear what caused the explosion on the BP rig more than 40 miles off the Louisiana coast.
Government officials said the blown-out well 40 miles offshore is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated -- about 5,000 barrels, or 200,000 gallons, a day. The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds.
In his remarks Friday, Obama cited a series of federal interventions in recent days, all designed to blunt the oil spill's impact and put people at ease.
Obama also said that he expected a report later Friday from federal officials he dispatched to the Gulf Coast region. He said he has ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to review what caused the oil rig explosion and to report back in 30 days on safeguards that should be required to prevent other such accidents.
'We're going to make sure that any leases going forward have those,' Obama pledged, adding that deep-water rigs in the Gulf will undergo new inspections.
'Let me be clear: I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security,' Obama said. 'But I've always said that it must be done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment.'
Obama said that oil company BP ultimately is responsible for the crisis, but that the federal government is fully prepared to meet its responsibilities to communities.
Earlier, a top adviser to Obama said no new oil drilling will be authorized until authorities learn what caused the explosion.
David Axelrod also defended the administration's response to the April 20 accident, saying 'we had the Coast Guard in almost immediately.'
He deflected comparisons with the government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, telling ABC's 'Good Morning America' that such speculation 'is always the case in Washington whenever something like this happens.'
Obama recently lifted a drilling moratorium for many offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Gulf areas. But Axelrod said Friday 'no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what has happened here.'
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