http://www.adn.com/article/20150126/white-house-propose-allowing-oil-drilling-atlantic-coast-0White House to propose allowing oil drilling off Atlantic coast
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan.
At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, according to the person familiar with the plans, who could not speak publicly about them until the announcement.
Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups. They argue that the move would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010, when millions of barrels of oil washed ashore after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
The move to ban drilling in some Arctic waters is certain to enrage Alaskan lawmakers who are already angry about an administration plan, announced during the weekend, to provide tougher environmental protections in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a 19 million-acre sanctuary that is believed to contain large reserves of oil and gas.
The proposals are part of the Interior Department's latest five-year plan, which lays out proposals to sell federal leases for oil and gas development from 2017 to 2022.
In opening up the Atlantic Coast for drilling while closing areas off Alaska, President Barack Obama is deploying a strategy that he has frequently used in forging environmental policy -- giving both the oil industry and environmentalists a win and a loss.
"The administration remains far more bullish on offshore leasing than its environmental allies would like, if less so than industry and the GOP wish," said Paul Bledsoe, an Interior Department official during the Clinton administration. "Proposing new offshore leasing the same week as limiting ANWR development seems intended to strike a deliberate balance between supply expansion and environmental protection."
It will not be the first time that the Obama White House has proposed offshore drilling in the Atlantic. In early 2010, before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, the administration proposed a five-year plan that would have allowed the federal government to sell drilling leases in the federal waters off Virginia. The administration abandoned that idea after the Gulf Coast spill in April.
Environmental groups said the prospect of Atlantic drilling is a risk that could lead to a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.
"Opening Atlantic waters to offshore drilling would take us in exactly the wrong direction," said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It would ignore the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the need to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean-energy future."
"The BP blowout oiled a thousand miles of coastline, about the distance from Savannah to Boston," Deans said. "Opening up part of the Atlantic to drilling could expose the entire Eastern Seaboard to the risks of a catastrophic blowout."