Wednesday: Obama to Open Areas for Offshore Drilling; 12 Killed in Russia

BY jbreslow  March 31, 2010 at 9:09 AM EST

President Barack Obama on Wednesday will propose lifting a long-standing ban on some offshore oil and natural gas drilling, a move that would open parts of the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s north coast to exploration.

According to multiple reports, the plan, which the president is scheduled to announce alongside Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, would end a moratorium on drilling within 167 million acres of ocean from Delaware to Florida. Another 130 million acres would be opened in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. The Pacific coastline and waters from New Jersey northward would remain protected.

The New York Times provides a map of the proposed areas here.

Although the proposal is being touted as a way to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, the plan is also seen as a compromise as the administration tries to win political support from some Republicans and moderate Democrats when the Senate takes up climate legislation in the coming weeks. At the same time, however, President Obama faces a potential backlash from environmentalists and coastal lawmakers, who contend offshore drilling could damage their states’ fishery and tourism industry.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said offshore drilling “is not a mechanism that actually fights climate change. You don’t make the problem worse in order to solve it.”

Suicide Bombers Kill 12 in Russia

For the second time in three days, suicide bombers have attacked in Russia, this time killing 12 people in twin blasts in the North Caucasus region.

Wednesday’s attack occurred in the republic of Dagestan. The first blast went off at roughly 8:30 a.m. local time outside the offices of the interior ministry in the town of Kizlyar. Some 20 minutes later, a second bomb went off as a crowd gathered to survey the damage. According to officials, one of the explosions was caused by a bomber wearing a police uniform.

The blasts come just two days after two female suicide bombers killed 39 people in two Moscow subway stations.

“Yet another terrorist act has been committed,” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. “I do not rule out that it is one and the same gang at work.”

Haitian President to Visit U.N. Seeking Aid

Haitian President Rene Preval will visit the United Nations on Wednesday to outline his country’s reconstruction plan to a conference of international donors from 120 nations. With the help of the United States, Preval is seeking nearly $4 billion over the next 18 months to aid the rebuilding effort.

Haiti’s recovery has been the focus of two collaborative reports we’ve featured on the show this week. On Monday, Frontline and NPR’s Adam Davidson examined the economy of Haiti’s tent cities, and Tuesday he looked at the artistry of the island’s commuter buses.