Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In About-Face, Obama Says No Drilling in Atlantic

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took to Twitter on Tuesday to say the administration's next five-year offshore drilling plan "protects the Atlantic for future generations." (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The Obama administration reversed course Tuesday and decided against opening Atlantic waters to oil and gas leasing, likely ensuring that drilling won't occur off the East Coast for the foreseeable future.

Releasing an updated draft of its 2017-2022 leasing program, which sets out 13 potential oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, the Interior Department eliminated Atlantic lease sales, citing "current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses."

"We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic Coast," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.  "When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn't make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years."

The news surprised both environmental and industry groups, which scrambled this morning to release their respective declarations of victory and criticism.  Many expected the administration would shrink the available leasing area in the Atlantic; few predicted a complete reversal.

The updated draft plan is open for 90 days of public comment. Interior plans to release a final version before President Obama leaves office.

Opposition to Atlantic drilling has grown in recent months, with more than 100 municipalities along the East Coast passing resolutions against oil and gas activity.  Last December, seven House Republicans joined 26 Democrats in asking Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to halt the permitting process for seismic surveys that enable oil and gas companies to find untapped mineral deposits.

The Department of Defense also voiced concerns about whether potential leasing areas -- particularly those off Virginia -- would affect military training.

 Read more at In About-Face, Obama Says No Drilling in Atlantic

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