Blog : Obama Limits Drilling in the Arctic, Opens It Up in the Atlantic

By Corey | Feb 12, 2015 | in

A writer for the Green Alliance, Corey takes current environmental issues that are occurring in the news and breaks it down for our readers to summarize the problems. Her goal is to explain how these issues can affect our country, our environment or you as an individual.

It has only been less than 16 years since the Exxon Valdex oil spill in Alaska and 5 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – the largest spill in US waters and one of the most devastating environmental disasters caused by humans. Therefore, it may shock some people that the Obama administration is already outlining another coastal energy development plan involving offshore oil and gas drilling in order to appease a soaring demand for domestic energy production.

A proposed five-year plan, known as the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, is defended by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as a “balanced” proposal that allows for nearly 80% of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop. Not surprisingly, the plan isn’t pleasing either sides of the issue. Environmental advocates are stating that the Atlantic Coast drilling is exposing the Eastern Seaboard to the hazards of drilling, putting oceans, wetlands, and coastal communities in potential risk of accidents and spills. Unsafe seismic activity could potentially harm whales and other marine animals, and the presence of the oil rigs themselves can cause detrimental displacement and destruction of marine life. Conservationists would rather see this time and money to be invested in renewables rather than in the direction of fossil fuels.

The region of the Arctic that oil companies and environmental advocates are battling over – with President Obama tied to the middle of their tug-of-war rope – is land that hasn’t even been tested in over thirty years. The Department of the Interior has proposed drilling in federal waters off the shores of four states – Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia between 2017-2022. Opening offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast would seemingly be considered a victory for oil and gas companies, yet Alaska is still the target of interest despite holding a small fraction of fuel potential in comparison to the Atlantic Coast area of drilling. The drafted plan will specifically exclude drilling off parts of Alaska due to Obama’s pursuit of wilderness protection for 12.3 million acres of oil-rich land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Obama’s push for wilderness protection is off the heels of his State of the Union Address, in which he openly recognizes that climate change is the “greatest threat to future generations”.

Others believe that drilling along the Atlantic isn’t filling enough fuel demands and want President Obama to reconsider his bar on the Alaskan land. One of the biggest critics on the bar is Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) who describes the Obama administration’s energy policy to be a “one, two, three kick to the gut of Alaska’s economy”. Criticism continues to fly both ways on the issue of expansive drilling in the US, with senators stating leasing should move forward only after “appropriate environmental reviews and opportunities for public hearings”.