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WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush planned to lift a ban on oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf on Monday as part of an effort to ease record high oil prices, the White House said.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush was acting because the Democratic-led Congress had failed to do so since he urged lawmakers last month to lift restrictions on offshore drilling, a move strongly opposed by environmentalists.
Bush was due to announce his decision and make a statement on energy needs at 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT). High gasoline prices increasingly have irked American consumers in a presidential election year, when Bush’s Republicans are trying to keep control of the White House.
"In his statement, the president will announce that he has decided to lift the executive ban on oil exploration in America’s Outer Continental Shelf," Perino said. "He’ll again call on Congress to lift its legislative ban.
"It has been nearly a month since the president urged the Congress to act to expand environmentally friendly and responsible exploration for American energy. Congress has not moved forward, despite calls from constituents and the continued pressure of record high energy prices," she said.
Perino said Bush originally had wanted to work in concert with Congress. "I think the way we described it was to turn both keys at the same time," she said.
"The Democratic leaders in Congress have not shown a willingness to move forward ... So we are going to move forward and, hopefully, that will spur action by the Congress. The ball is squarely in their court now," she added.
"States are going to be able to make decisions for themselves as to whether or not they want to do more offshore oil exploration off their shores, and how far out that would be, and what the revenue sharing would be when it comes to that," Perino said.
"There’s a lot of things that would need to be worked out. And both the legislative ban and congressional ban need to be lifted in order for us to move forward to try to develop more sources here in our own country," she said. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Walter Bagley)