Offshore drilling proposal expected soon

Offshore drilling proposal expected soon

The Obama administration is likely to release a new proposal this week to govern offshore oil and natural gas drilling lease sales through 2022.

People familiar with the plan said the proposal could be released by the Interior Department as early as Tuesday.

It would be an update to a preliminary plan the department put out in January 2015 setting out the schedule for offshore lease sales from 2017 to 2022.

The most contentious piece of last year’s proposal is to allow drilling off the Atlantic coast, which has never seen drilling beyond exploratory wells.

One lease sale is proposed for an area between Georgia and Virginia, where state leaders support drilling.

But the plan has run into significant opposition from coastal communities and businesses that fear accidents such as oil spills and want to keep the coast free from drilling.

State lawmakers and leaders in other Atlantic states like New Jersey and Massachusetts also want to stop the leases, saying that any spills could travel along the entire coast.

Last year’s plan also would allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean and 10 new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, the only federal waters with offshore wells currently in production.

Interior’s soon-to-be released proposal is the second of three steps in developing the final plan for the 2017 to 2022 period. The planned sales cannot increase from last year’s proposal, so it can only get smaller or stay the same.

The new proposal will be open to public comment and will likely be made final by the end of the year.