Obama talks about energy security, opens Southeast coast to drilling

Obama announced  that the U.S. will open leasing for oil and gas drilling off the coast of several Southeastern states. Drilling would not be allowed off the coast of New Jersey and farther north.

Longstanding bans on offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts expired in 2008, but Wednesday's announcement will mark the first time the Obama administration has laid out where it will allow new leasing.

Alaska’s Bristol Bay will be protected under the plan. Part of Bristol Bay had been eyed for development during the George W. Bush administration.

The move also would not open up the Pacific Coast to drilling, according to a report in The New York Times.

Obama gave remarks on oil and drilling on Wednesday morning at Andrews Naval Air Facility in an address focused on energy security.

The moves comes as the Senate considers taking up climate change legislation. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on legislation they are expected to unveil in April.

Wider drilling is a part of the bill being crafted by the three senators.

Obama has signaled support for broader offshore drilling as he woos backing from Republicans and centrist Democrats for a wider energy and climate policy shift that includes measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Update: The plan also proposes to allow wider drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico – if Congress allows it.

Much of the eastern Gulf remains off-limits under a 2006 law that expanded drilling in other parts of the Gulf. The plan to be announced later today would allow drilling greater than 125 miles from Florida’s Gulf shores, and administration officials say military training in the region would be protected.

The plan would also cancel four currently planned lease sales off Alaska’s northern coast. Instead those areas will be studied to determine whether they are suitable for leasing, according to an administration official.

This story was originally posted at 8:51 AM.

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