The Obama administration put forth a five-year plan Tuesday that would allow oil and gas drilling in a giant area off the East Coast. The region would include parts of the southeast Atlantic Seaboard. The plan also involves sections in the Gulf of Mexico.

As one might imagine, this move can be read as pro-Big Oil, and pro-GOP by extension. Perhaps trying to play it both ways, Obama’s plan in addition would designate 12 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, which would effectively stop oil exploration there for the time being. The New York Times reports:

Environmentalists said opening the Atlantic waters would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010, when millions of barrels of oil washed ashore after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Advocacy groups in those states said that the drilling could harm tourism, fishing and other coastal industries that are already major drivers of the Southeastern economy.

But lawmakers from both parties in those coastal states have pushed for years to open their waters for drilling. The Interior Department estimates there are 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil on the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf and 31.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The plan would require congressional approval, and although environmentalists intend to fight tooth and nail against it, many congressional members on the right (and some on the left) have lobbied for oil drilling because it would create jobs.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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