President Obama is set to unveil plans Wednesday to open large swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling — a move likely to please the energy industry but upset the administration’s environmentalist supporters.
“To set America on a path to energy independence, the president believes we must leverage our diverse domestic resources by pursuing a comprehensive energy strategy,” said a statement provided by an administration official, who did not want to comment on the record ahead of the president’s announcement.
“The president will announce today additional measures that will boost domestic energy production and promote clean energy innovation,” the statement said.
The administration plan would include lifting a 20-year ban on drilling off the Virginia coastline, while putting the clamps on sites that had been approved off the southwest coast of Alaska.
The plan authorizes the Interior Department to conduct seismic surveys off the south- and mid-Atlantic coasts to “determine the quantity and location of potential oil and gas resources to support energy planning.”
Roughly two-thirds of available oil and gas resources in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be opened to drilling if a congressional moratorium on oil and gas operations in the region is lifted, according to the statement. Drilling would occur over 125 miles off the Florida coast.
GOP leaders have pushed strongly for additional domestic drilling to lessen America’s dependence on outside energy sources. One top Republican, however, argued that Obama’s plan does not go far enough.
“It’s long past time for this administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources of the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ “