Obama administration officials pulled a fast one on Republicans and the oil and gas industry by not opening up sections of the Atlantic Ocean for offshore drilling.
The Department of the Interior won’t allow companies to bid for drilling leases off the Atlantic coast, a person close to matter told The New York Times. Interior is expected to release its plan Tuesday, and it will likely be sharply rebuked by Republicans and states open to drilling.
“By removing the entire proposed Atlantic leasing area, the administration has failed to present a serious offshore plan that will help meet our energy needs over the coming decades,” David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, said in a statement on reports the administration was withdrawing the leases.
“The domestic energy revolution has provided a major boost to the American economy and consumer pocketbooks, while fundamentally transforming the global geopolitical landscape to the benefit of U.S. national security,” Holt said.
The Obama administration’s decision is a complete flip from the offshore drilling plan it put out in January, 2015, calling for as much as 104 million acres of the Atlantic to be opened up by 2021. The plan also opened up portions of the Arctic to offshore drilling.
To Atlantic state governors, it seemed Obama had turned a new leaf on drilling, and they joined the oil and gas industry in supporting offshore energy development. Even Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe supported offshore drilling.
Environmentalists, however, are vehemently opposed to Atlantic drilling and welcomed news the administration was not moving ahead with planned lease sales in the region. Eco-activists said offshore drilling would mean more oil spills and global warming.
“Any new offshore drilling will be a stain on President Obama’s climate legacy,” May Boeve, executive director of the environmental group 350.org, said in a statement. “We can’t afford any more oil spilling into the oceans and carbon pouring into the atmosphere.”
Obama’s decision comes after his administration cancelled all planned Arctic drilling lease sales in October, 2015, after Royal Dutch Shell pulled out of the region due to low oil prices and regulatory uncertainty. Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil also pulled out of the Arctic in part because of regulatory restrictions.
Now, Obama has closed the Atlantic to drilling, virtually eliminating all enthusiasm from his five-year offshore drilling plan. Unless you’re an environmentalist, of course.
“Thankfully, the next administration will soon have an opportunity to consider the long-term implications of today’s decision — and the public and state support that exists for offshore development — and reverse course toward a more responsible approach,” Holt said.
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