Environmental groups bash Obama drilling plan, but Alaskan greens pleased

The plan drew similar attacks from Greenpeace and Oceana. The criticism underscores the difficult path the White House faces on energy and climate policy.

President Obama is supporting broader offshore drilling as he woos backing from Republicans and centrist Democrats for a wider energy and climate policy shifts – including limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Wider drilling is also part of a broad energy and climate change bill that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are crafting.

Expanded oil-and-gas development could weaken support for the legislation from coastal state Democrats and environmentalists.

But the administration’s drilling plan – to be fully unveiled later on Wednesday – is giving environmentalists in Alaska reason to cheer. It would cancel planned lease sales – authorized under the Bush administration – in regions off Alaska’s northern coast to allow further study.

“This morning’s news about offshore drilling on Alaska’s Arctic coast indicates that the Obama administration intends to make sound decisions based on science about if, when, where and how any future development occurs,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

The plan also blocks leasing in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.