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Folly Beach, South Carolina. (Photo: Eric Harrison/flickr/cc)

Folly Beach, South Carolina. (Photo: Eric Harrison/flickr/cc)

Obama Proposal to Open Atlantic Waters to Oil and Gas Drilling Slammed As 'Horrible'

'Despite the continued rhetoric by the president, his administration continues to push us in the wrong direction of climate change.'

Sarah Lazare

Despite the objections of environmental groups and local residents, the Obama administration is moving forward with plans to open up large swaths of federally owned waters off the Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling.

The move was revealed by numerous media outlets, which cited anonymous sources, and is expected to be formally announced by the administration on Tuesday. The prospect of drilling in the Atlantic is widely unpopular with many concerned that it could bring a disaster, like BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizen spill, to the eastern seaboard.

"From the perspective of the Atlantic Coast, this is horrible," Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity, told Common Dreams. "This is an area that has been off limits to drilling, and the reason is that no one but the oil industry wants drilling there. It is disturbing that the administration would even flirt with the idea of bringing the disaster of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Coast."

The proposal, which applies to leases from 2017 to 2022, will open up federal waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi waters off of Alaska are expected to be excluded from oil and gas development.

"Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades," notes the New York Times. This is not the first time the Obama administration has given Big Oil access to the Atlantic. In 2010 the administration approved drilling leases off of Virginia, but this proposal was aborted following the 2010 BP spill.

The proposal appears to fly in the face of Obama's highly-publicized move to protect some of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness, which many hope will curtail some Arctic oil drilling if approved by Congress.

Obama's contradictory policies sparked immediate criticism, including the following Tweets from journalist, author, and oil expert Antonia Juhasz:

Critics say that expanded drilling not only poses a threat to people and ecosystems in the direct path of oil spills, but also to global climate. A peer-reviewed study published last month in the journal Nature found that, in order to avoid a catastrophic global temperature increase, the majority of fossil fuel deposits around the world—including 92 percent of U.S. coal, all Arctic oil and gas, and a majority of Canadian tar sands—must remain untapped.

"Despite the continued rhetoric by the president," said Snape, "his administration continues to push us in the wrong direction of climate change. This is exactly the wrong way to go. We should not be expanding drilling, we should be reducing it."

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