Report: Obama to back off Atlantic coast drilling plan

The Obama administration is reportedly planning to withdraw its earlier plans to allow oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast. 

The New York Times reported late Monday that the Interior Department will reverse its 2015 proposal to allow drilling off the coast between Virginia and Georgia. 

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The decision — a component of Obama’s five-year offshore drilling plan — could be released publicly as early as Tuesday. 

Obama proposed in January 2015 allowing lease sales for oil and gas development in the Atlantic Ocean, where operators have never drilled beyond exploratory wells. 

State leaders and the oil industry support drilling off the southeast coast. But environmentalists, local businesses and coastal communities united against the proposal, warning about the risk of an oil spill and the harm it could bring to local wildlife. 

“If these reports are correct that the Obama Administration plans to end consideration of drilling off the Atlantic coast, this is an incredible day,” Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Sierra Weaver said in a Tuesday statement. 

“It would reflect the hard work of thousands of people and a collection of communities and elected leaders from both parties who stood up to protect the Southeast’s beautiful beaches. We eagerly await an official announcement.”

The Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan sets the schedule for lease sales between 2017 and 2022. Officials put out their preliminary plan last year, and the proposal announced this week will be open to public comment and likely be made final by the end of 2016.