A week after President Bush's surprise announcement that he would delay opening three vast stretches of the sea floor to offshore oil drilling, environmentalists say their initial elation has been tempered by a sense of skepticism.
Opponents of offshore drilling say it remains to be seen whether Bush's move is merely a token gesture to environmentalists or an action that will bring protections they seek for California's northern and southern coasts and the gulf shore of Florida.They also expressed disappointment that other senstive coastal areas in the United States, such as Central California, Alaska, North Carolina and New England, were excluded from the president's order.
"We were excited at first, but we have calmed down," said Dorrie Smith, an activist for the environmental group, Greenpeace. "We're worried he may be trying to pacify the environmental community by offering protection to some areas in exchange for allowing development of other areas."
Sarah Chasis, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, "The jury is really out" on the sincerity of Bush's move. In his address to Congress Feb. 9, Bush said he was ordering the "indefinite postponement" of three lease sales to oil and gas companies seeking drilling rights on huge blocks of the Outer Continental Shelf.