In a reversal of a previous proposal, the Obama administration declared on Tuesday that it will not allow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, a body of water which encompasses one fifth of the world’s surface area.
Sally Jewell, secretary of the Interior, made the announcement on Twitter, declaring that the administration’s next five-year offshore drilling plan “protects the Atlantic for future generations.” Never mind that the administration opens up more areas of the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean to drilling.
The decision marks a clear reversal from a proposal last year which would have opened up a large area of the Atlantic Coast to drilling. The proposal, released in January 2015, would have opened up sites more than 50 miles off the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia to oil drilling starting in 2021.
The Interior Department said this proposal elicited strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military interests. The Pentagon said Atlantic drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with Navy missile tests which aid in the defense of the East Coast.
The administration’s five-year plan may mark the Atlantic Ocean off limits, but it opens large areas of the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean to potential drilling. The new plan covers potential lease sites from 2017 to 2022, and proposes 10 areas in the Gulf of Mexico and three sites off the Alaska coast. As Secretary Jewell explained:
We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast. 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.
Next Page: Environmentalists Praise Decision to Open 13 Drilling Sites in Gulf of Mexico, Arctic Ocean
The Interior Department and environmentalists praised the decision as a step forward for the planet.
— US Dept of Interior (@Interior) March 15, 2016
“President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change,” Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of the environmental group Oceana, triumphantly declared. “This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old-fashioned grassroots organizing.”
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who is also a former governor of the state, said that the military had not previously raised such concerns about offshore drilling near Virginia, which boasts the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk. “I look forward to additional discussions with [the Department of Defense] to understand its position,” he said.
Natalie Mazey, a spokeswoman for Shell Oil Company, called the decision “short sighted,” and argued that it would “jeopardize the abundance of affordable domestic energy the economy has become dependent on.”
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the decision violates the will of the voters, governors, and members of Congress who support drilling.
The decision appeases extremists who seek to stop oil and natural gas production which would increase the cost of energy for American consumers and close the door for years to creating new jobs, new investments and boosting energy security.
Neither of these spokesmen attacked the hypocrisy of shutting down one area ostensibly for climate concerns while opening others which would arguably also violate those concerns.