Georgia to Maryland: US proposes major expansion of Atlantic coastal drilling

The Obama administration has proposed opening up coastal waters from Georgia to Maryland for oil and gas drilling.

On 27 January, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for 2017-2022, which includes eight planning areas, three in the Gulf of Mexico, two in the Atlantic, and three in Alaska.

The DPP schedules 14 potential lease sales in those areas for the period in eight program areas.

The two Atlantic planning areas would open vast swathes of the United States’ eastern seaboard to drilling, long considered a prize by the industry. The plan is subject to months of public hearings, and could be revised.

Leases that would be up for sale in 2021 cover the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland.

Lawmakers in Virginia and other Southeastern states have pushed to open up their waters to oil companies. Both of Virginia’s Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, support drilling off their state’s coast.

But environmental groups said the prospect of Atlantic drilling is a risk that could lead to a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

“Opening Atlantic waters to offshore drilling would take us in exactly the wrong direction,” said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It would ignore the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the need to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean-energy future.”