Today is a a day to celebrate. The Obama Administration has chosen to side with the interests of citizens, small businesses, and coastal communities over the influence of Big Oil and has announced the cancellation of plans to offer leases for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic.
The announcement coincided with the release of the Administration’s Proposed Five Year Program for offshore oil and gas, which determines the areas for which lease sales will be held. Last year, the Administration initially proposed opening a huge area off the coast of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in its draft proposed program released in January 2015.
Yet as the reality of potential offshore drilling loomed ever closer, a bi-partisan movement emerged to protect our coast from the impacts of offshore drilling. Over the past two years, more than 100 local governments, 100 members of Congress, 1,000 small businesses, and hundreds of thousands of residents have voiced a bi-partisan call to protect our coast from the impacts of offshore drilling. Together we have stood up for the quality of life we enjoy on the Southeast coast and the booming tourism economy, which are dependent upon clean and healthy beaches and marshes.
The White House listened sincerely, and today coastal voices won out over the influence of Big Oil.
The two immediate implications for this announcement are that firstly we need to make sure seismic testing for oil and gas in the Atlantic is not ultimately permitted. Secondly, our focus should now be on developing responsible offshore energy solutions compatible with our coastal resources, such as offshore wind energy.
In January, when President Obama emphasized his wish to hold a legacy of acting on climate change to preserve a better future, we asked if he would take action to truly earn it. One major inconsistency he needed to address before leaving office was making so much progress on climate change (i.e. Clean Power Plan, Paris Agreement, Methane Pollution Standards, nixing the Keystone XL pipeline, etc.) yet opening a huge source of fossil fuel and carbon pollution in the form of Atlantic drilling. Today, he may have sealed the deal as America’s first “Climate President.”