Pause: Aide Says Obama Will Extend Freeze on Deepwater Drilling

The freeze will be extended for six months while the White House investigates what went wrong at Deepwater Horizon.

According to an aide, President Obama will continue to suspend deepwater drilling projects for at least six months.

Planned exploration off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas also will be delayed pending the panel’s review, according to a White House aide. Lease sales in the Western Gulf and off the coast of Virginia will be canceled.

Those steps, along with new oversight and safety standards, are the results of a 30-day safety review of offshore drilling conducted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Obama’s direction. Salazar briefed Obama and senior advisers on the report Wednesday night in the Oval Office, the aide said.

The president planned to announce the changes at a midday news conference Thursday.

Salazar says in the report that he will not consider applications for permits to drill in the Arctic until 2011. Shell Oil is poised to begin exploratory drilling this summer on leases as far as 140 miles offshore.

An administration official familiar with the plan said Salazar wants to allow further study of proposed drilling technology and oil spill response capabilities in Arctic waters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public. Salazar has said he wants to take a cautious approach in the Arctic.

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