President Barack Obama is set to reverse plans Tuesday that would have opened the southeast Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling, after strong opposition from environmental groups and coastal communities, an administration official told CNN.
In 2015 the Obama administration announced plans to allow for the first time offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast, from Virginia to Georgia. Obama allies in the environmental community criticized the proposal and the oil industry complained that it didn’t open enough offshore areas.
In addition, More than 100 coastal cities and towns that would have been affected, including Charleston, South Carolina, signed resolutions since the original announcement calling for the reversal.
Drilling was supported by oil companies as well as lawmakers and governors in the affected states who saw an opportunity for job creation.
The reversal, a surprise to many, follows previous moves by the administration to bolster Obama’s environmental legacy.
An Interior Department official told CNN that many factors were considered in the reversal, including current market dynamics, potential conflicts with other ocean uses including by the Defense Department, commercial issues and limited infrastructure.
The official also pointed to “strong local opposition” and “comments from affected states.”
According to federal energy data, the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf is estimated to hold 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil and 31.3 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves.
The announcement will be made by the Interior Department Tuesday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tweeted, adding that the “next 5-year offshore proposed plan protects the Atlantic for future generations.”
“We applaud the Obama administration for listening to the tens of thousands of citizens up and down the East Coast and protecting the Atlantic Ocean, safeguarding its beaches and coastal economies,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “We hope that the administration will continue its efforts and remove the Arctic Ocean and block new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The American Petroleum Institute, however, slammed the decision, calling it “inconsistent with the will of American voters.”
“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,” said API President and CEO Jack Gerard.