U.S. President Barack Obama reverses plans and will now disallow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
The decision came after local communities and several environmentalist groups expressed strong rejection to what might have open drilling sites, more than 50 miles from Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina by the year 2021.
The Oil Drilling Proposal
The original plan was to allow drilling projects in the Atlantic. Such proposal was billed by the Interior department, which boasts the balanced approach of the plan such that it includes Alaskan land protection. With this, environmentalists seemed to have switched back and forth agreeing and disagreeing on the plan.
Most government officials gave their nods of approval to the proposal, saying this will create new jobs and amp up state revenues.
Even the oil and gas sector seemed to have agreed with the oil drilling plan due to the possible new frontier for the industry. Although the oil and gas deposits along the U.S. East Coast have not yet been verified, estimates say it would amount to about 3.3 billion barrels of oil and 31.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Despite the seemingly promising benefits of the oil drilling project, coastal communities strongly protest against it. The people are particularly worried about potential oil spills, impacts on tourism and the overall economy.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says putting into consideration conflicts with national defense, tourism, fishing and local community uproar, it looks nonsensical to continue with any lease sales in the next five years.
Advocacy Groups, Happy But Still Wary
Advocacy group Oceana vice president for the U.S., Jacqueline Savitz is delighted with the move of the Obama administration.
"President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change," she says. For her, this is a courageous decision that initiates a new energy model that replaces fossil fuels with clean energy, and one that prevents the worst effects of carbon dioxide emissions.
There is no doubt that advocacy groups are pleased with the decision, but for them, it is not yet time to put their guard down.
Cindy Shogan from Alaska Wilderness League says concerns about the U.S. maintaining an open door for oil drilling in the Arctic still exist.
Oceana supports this concern and continues to urge the Obama administration to stop new lease sales in the region.