Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took to Twitter on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, to make the announcement, saying the Obama administration’s next five-year offshore drilling plan “protects the Atlantic for future generations.”
Jewell noted that the president had listened to thousands of people up and down the Atlantic Coast, from Florida to New England who said, “Now is not the time to start leasing off the Atlantic Coast.” The decision comes in Obama’s final year in office as he works to build on his environmental legacy that includes a global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions and a plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
In January 2015, according to Digital Journal, President Obama outlined plans to open the offshore waters along the Atlantic Coast from Virginia down to Georgia for oil leasing. At the same time, restrictions were put on drilling in the environmentally stressed waters of Alaska’s North Slope. The move was actually the second time the president had recommended the move to open the Atlantic Coast to drilling.
It is likely the president’s decision to ban oil drilling on the East Coast will become an election issue, following political party lines. Both Democratic contenders are opposed to drilling while Republican contenders are all for drilling, including the Republican governors of North and South Carolina, as well as the Democratic governor of Virginia, and the state’s two Democratic senators.
Jacqueline Savitz, the vice president of the environmental group Oceana, said, “President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change. This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old-fashioned grassroots organizing.”
Republicans and oil industry groups opposing the ban on drilling are saying the move is just another example of what they call “executive overreach.” Oil companies and trade groups also say the protesters against oil drilling on the East Coast only represent 7.2 percent of the population, with most Americans in favor of offshore 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,” Consumer Energy Alliance president David Holt said in an e-mailed statement, according to Bloomberg.