In a major reversal, the Obama administration said Tuesday it will bar oil drilling off America's Atlantic Coast, a move cheered by environmentalists and consistent with the president's aggressive steps to combat climate change, the AP reports. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the decision "protects the Atlantic for future generations." She noted the administration had listened to thousands of people in coastal communities from Florida to New England who said, "Now is not the time to start leasing off the Atlantic Coast." However, business groups and most Republicans criticized it as another example of what they call executive overreach.
The decision reverses a proposal made last year in which the administration floated a plan that would have opened up a broad swath of the Atlantic Coast to drilling. That January 2015 proposal would have opened up sites more than 50 miles off Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia to oil drilling no earlier than 2021. The oil and gas industry has pushed for Atlantic drilling and pledged that exploration would be done safely, with lessons applied from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal on Atlantic drilling is likely to become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Both Democratic candidates oppose it, while Republicans vow to expand drilling. (In October, the administration blocked new Arctic offshore drilling.)