Environmentalists, conservationists, and those concerned about global climate change were understandably upset when in January 2015 the Interior Dept. embraced the desires of fossil fuel corporations and proposed opening an area on the outer continental shelf from Virginia to Georgia to offshore oil drilling.
But after hearing from "thousands" of people in coastal communities from New England to Florida who said, in the words of Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, "now is not the time to start leasing (for oil) off the Atlantic Coast," on March 15 the administration reversed itself and declared there would be no Atlantic leases in the coming five years.
|Interior Sec. Sally Jewell|
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.There is - of course - a downside, as it seems there always is. Actually, two. The immediate one is that the same proposal that said there would be no Atlantic leases also said that there still would be two sales of leases for drilling in the US Arctic - one sale each in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska, an area potentially even more environmentally-fragile than the outer continental shelf.
The second, longer term, downside is that the next president could just change the decision. Both Sanders and Clinton have indicated opposition to both Atlantic and Arctic drilling - he, in fact, is opposed to any expansion of offshore drilling - but right now no one can honestly guarantee that one of them will be president. Probably, yes. A dead certainty? No.
Still, for the moment, we will say one battle at a time - and welcome the good news of a win for the Atlantic Coast and the people who live there.
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