Obama admin reverses course, will NOT open up more offshore drilling
Back in January 2015, the Obama administration pleased oil companies and kindled fierce opposition when it announced the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s five-year plan for offshore oil development off the southeast Atlantic Coast.
Tuesday, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced a surprising retreat:
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.
“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.” […]
“With this decision coastal communities have won a ‘David vs. Goliath’ fight against the richest companies on the planet, and that is a cause for tremendous optimism for the well-being of future generations,” said Jacqueline Savitz, environmental group Oceana’s vice president for U.S. oceans.
At the same time the department announced that 10 potential lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the Alaskan coast would be evaluated.
The area off the southeast coast is estimated to have at least 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil 31.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Even though governors and other leaders in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia supported drilling off their coasts, opposition to the original five-year plan arose as soon as the announcement of the plan was made 14 months ago. It included more than a million public comments, resolutions opposing the drilling from at least 106 local communities, letters of opposition to President Obama from 80 East Coast state legislators and owners of 1,000 or so coastal businesses, the Pentagon’s concerns about its missile testing and training operations, the lack of infrastructure to transport and refine the oil, as well as damage to fisheries, wildlife and tourism.
The American Petroleum Institute, the leading oil industry trade group, had been meeting with community leaders promising great economic benefits, from jobs to improvements in education. Erik Milito, API’s director of upstream and industry operations, told Reuters Monday: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, stuck, off limits to future generations as it waits for forward-looking energy policy.”
But late last year, a report from the Center for a Blue Economy commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center found that assumptions in a 2013 BOEM-commissioned report touting the benefits of offshore drilling was based on outdated assumptions, including leases based on oil trading at $120 a barrel in 2018. It is currently trading below $40 a barrel. When projected economic benefits were weighed against potential damage, the CBE report found that the states where off-shore drilling would have been allowed might gain little to nothing.
Rachel Richardson, program director for the drilling program at Environment America, told The New York Times: “This moment has come because Atlantic coast communities, businesses and citizens have all spoken up to protect their beaches, treasured marine life and President Obama listened.
At 350.org, Executive Director May Boeve said:
“The President’s decisions on offshore drilling and fossil fuel development on public lands will define his climate legacy. Scientists are clear that in order to meet our climate targets we must keep fossil fuels in the ground. Protecting the Atlantic is a major win for people all along the coast who fought hard to protect their communities and the climate, but there’s much more work to be done. We won’t rest until we end new fossil fuel development in the Arctic, Gulf, and all across this country.”
Climate activists pledge to keep up pressure on the administration in hopes of eliminating offshore drilling entirely from the final plan, expected by the end of 2016.