Climate

Administration Cancels Atlantic Drilling Plans (UPDATED)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Dave Martin

In a in this Friday, May 9, 2003 file photo, angler Andy Hails, of Montgomery, Ala., checks the fishing lines on his boat as he trolls the Gulf of Mexico near a natural gas well off the Alabama coast near Gulf Shores, Ala.

UPDATE

BOEM’s five-year plan was published Tuesday afternoon. For more a more detailed look at the plan, see ThinkProgress’ latest story.

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The Obama administration is expected Tuesday to cancel plans for oil and gas exploration off Southeast states, after widespread outcry from residents and environmentalists.

The Interior Department’s newest five-year plan for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will close much of the Atlantic to offshore drilling through 2022, multiple sources reported.

Residents along the coasts of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia have expressed fears that oil and gas development will damage the largely ocean-dependent economies of the Southeast coast. Fisheries, wildlife, and tourism were all at risk from increased traffic, noise, and, of course, potential oil spills, residents said.

While the governors and some legislators from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all were in favor of the plan to drill off the coast, which was released last January in a draft plan from BOEM, more than 110 different towns and cities along the coast — including the entire coast of South Carolina — have passed resolutions against offshore drilling or its precursor, seismic testing.

Seismic testing, during which loud noises are bounced from a boat off the ocean floor in order to determine how much oil and gas might actually be recoverable, was expected to disrupt fisheries and wildlife migration. If fossil fuels were recovered, there is no current infrastructure off the Atlantic for refining or transporting the product, which raised questions about safety and the high bar of investment.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the military was opposing much of the plan for Atlantic offshore drilling, citing concerns about missile testing and training maneuvers.

Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., has been doing presentations to community leaders along the coast, and recently put out a report alleging that the plan would bring jobs and money to the southeastern states.

A report commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center last year found that there would be little to no economic benefit for East Coast states — while putting much of the region’s economic activity at risk.

As of Tuesday morning, The Guardian was reporting that offshore drilling off the coast of Virginia would stay in the plan as a possibility. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has supported the plan.

A Congressional ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic was lifted in 2008, and the Obama Administration has been considering leasing there since 2010.