"Access to potential oil and gas resources under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) continues to be controversial. Moratoria on leasing and development in certain areas were largely eliminated in 2008 and 2009, although a few areas remain legislatively off limits to leasing. The 112th Congress may be unlikely to reinstate broad leasing moratoria, but some Members have expressed interest in protecting areas (e.g., the Georges Bank or Northern California) or establishing protective coastal buffers. Pressure to expand oil and gas supplies and protect coastal environments and communities will likely lead Congress and the Administration to consider carefully which areas to keep open to leasing and which to protect from development. The oil spill that occurred on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico brought increased attention to offshore drilling risks. Consideration of offshore development for any purpose has raised concerns over the protection of the marine and coastal environment. In addition to the oil spill, historical events associated with offshore oil production, such as the large oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, in 1969, cause both opponents and proponents of offshore development to consider the risks and to weigh those risks against the economic and social benefits of the development. […] The ultimate impact of oil and gas development in offshore areas will depend on oil and gas prices, volumes of resources actually discovered, infrastructure development, and restrictions placed on development, all of which currently carry significant uncertainties."
CRS Report for Congress, R40645