(NY Times) When the Obama administration unveiled a proposal in January 2015 to open the southeastern Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling for the first time, environmental advocates were shocked and enraged — and the oil industry was delighted.
The emotions were the same, just on opposite sides of the energy-environmental divide, when the Interior Department announced Tuesday that the administration was yanking Atlantic drilling off the table. And almost everyone was shocked.
In the balance between business demands and environmental conservation, President Obama has shown clearly where he wants his legacy to lean. He has killed the Keystone XL pipeline, announced a moratorium on coal extraction from federal lands, and now, after first signaling that he would approve East Coast oil drilling, he has opted to keep the oil under the sea.
Obama administration officials said Tuesday that the decision was driven by many factors, but two stood out: an organized outpouring of opposition from the mayors and municipal councils in more than 100 of the coastal communities in the four states that would be affected by the drilling, and concern from the Pentagon that oil and gas exploration could threaten activities around Virginia’s Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base.
“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.”