Obama to okay oil drilling off the Atlantic coast?

posted at 2:01 pm on August 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Will an administration that has dragged its feet for years on an oil pipeline suddenly transform the Atlantic coast into an active oil field? The Hill’s Laura Barron-Lopez reports that the Interior Department appears ready to approve drilling off the East Coast, a major change in policy for the Obama administration, and one likely to create a civil war within the Democratic Party.

Anyone want to take odds that this White House will do that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

President Obama is moving toward opening the Atlantic Ocean to drilling, a major shift in U.S. policy that cuts against the administration’s efforts to reduce global warming. …

All signs point toward the administration giving the thumbs up to Atlantic drilling.

In June, the administration gave its strongest signal to date that the Atlantic will likely be included in Interior’s five-year lease plan for 2017-2022, by opening it up to new oil and gas exploration for the first time in 30 years.

That decision followed the Interior Department’s release of an environmental review in February, setting guidelines for seismic surveys to test Atlantic waters for potential energy sources.

“It does not look good because if he weren’t going to allow drilling then he wouldn’t have opened the Atlantic to seismic tests,” said Sara Young, a marine scientist for Oceana, a conservation group.

The politics of this push are complicated, to say the least. Interior isn’t touching the West Coast, where Democratic governors all oppose any drilling for oil despite the known reserves that exist there. The governors on the Atlantic seaboard have a mixed attitude toward it. Republican Chris Christie opposes oil exploration in offshore New Jersey, but Democrat Terry McAuliffe wants to encourage the oil industry in his state, as do both governors from the Carolinas, according to Barron-Lopez. The expansion would make sense for those governors, and would create a lot of jobs — good paying union jobs, actually, which means that the labor movement will want action on this just as it wants the Keystone XL pipeline.

However, that would pit two critical constituencies against one another, and just in time for the midterm elections. Environmental groups are working overtime to stop progress on exploration, and so are their allies in the Democratic Party:

Legislators from New Jersey and other Atlantic Coast states are pushing the Obama administration to reverse a decision to allow geologic exploration of the ocean floor from Florida to Delaware as a step toward seeking underwater oil and gas reserves.

In a letter to the head of the agency that oversees oil and gas drilling, 37 House members – all Democrats – cite the risk of an oil spill and the damage it could cause to those who make their living in commercial fishing or tourism along the coast as a reason not to drill for oil or gas.

“We are simply unwilling to accept the tremendous risks of an oil spill in the Atlantic, which would vastly outweigh any potential gains from drilling,” states the letter to Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“I strongly disagree with President Obama’s push to increase drilling off the East Coast,” said Rep. Rush Holt of Mercer County, one of those who signed the letter. Holt, the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees domestic drilling, said an accident could endanger 320,000 jobs and $18.5 billion associated with New Jersey’s fishing and tourism industries.

Let’s put aside the relative value of the policy itself. Most people who hold opinions on it won’t be swayed with a couple of bon mots in a political analysis anyway, although it’s worth pointing out that support for offshore drilling has always been more bipartisan than its opposition. Instead, consider the idea that this administration will approve actual drilling when it has stalled the construction of a pipeline for the last several years. The Keystone XL pipeline is not only less environmentally risky than drilling, it would replace (at least in part) the much more dangerous transportation method currently in use for crude, by rail. Derailments create a big environmental impact and are much more lethal than an occasional leak from a pipeline, while a pipeline isn’t even in the same category of risk as an offshore rig.

Now, with that context, why would anyone expect the Obama administration to approve offshore drilling before the Keystone pipeline? Obama can mollify the same groups with an approval of Keystone without generating the outrage that offshore drilling would create among his base. That would also help repair some of the damage Obama has done to the US-Canada relationship as well as deny China easy access to Canadian crude. Keystone is a much easier political lift than Atlantic oil exploration, with much less chance for political blowback.

Even holding the question open, and perhaps floating a trial balloon about approval, doesn’t make a lot of sense politically. Maybe the White House is worried about Kay Hagan’s chances in North Carolina and the challenge to Mark Warner by Ed Gillespie in Virginia in attempting to show that it’s giving serious thought to offshore drilling off the coasts of those states, but it’s more likely to discourage their environmental activists if they proceed or their labor activists if they don’t. Either way, it’s a popcorn-ordering opportunity for Republicans as Obama puts more stress on a Democratic fault line just a couple of months ahead of the midterms. Just don’t expect anything else but more can-kicking from Interior, especially before the midterms, and probably for the rest of Obama’s term.

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The left would rather have us buy oil from terrorists.

crosshugger on August 11, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Yeah gee it would be awful for New Jersey, all those corpses washing up on shore would be coated with oil were a spill to occur.

Bishop on August 11, 2014 at 2:07 PM

No way he does this.

He’s much more likely to announce he has banned all fracking by executive order.

ConstantineXI on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Would this help the USA?

Yes it would.

Then Obama will not do it. in fact get ready for him to shutdown even more federal land to energy exploration. That would hurt the USA and is King Barky the Liar’s default position.

jukin3 on August 11, 2014 at 2:10 PM

They’re just evolving

No flip flopping here

cmsinaz on August 11, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Anytime the headline ends with a ?, the answer is no.

Moesart on August 11, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Playing bluff with Vlad on supplying fossil fuels for Europe. Won’t work. Vlad gets another good belly laugh.

butch on August 11, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Sounds like a ploy to get more donations for the Obama Library.

meci on August 11, 2014 at 2:14 PM


Anyone want to take odds that this White House will do that?

My dollars to your donuts.

petefrt on August 11, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Anyone want to take odds that this White House will do that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

I already have my $128 Million lottery ticket.

nobar on August 11, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Sounds like a ploy to get more donations for the Obama Library.

meci on August 11, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Given how much of his past and present are either hidden or are on hard drives that have crashed, this “library” would literally fit in an outhouse.

(Uh oh, Eric Witholder is investigating me now)

ConstantineXI on August 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Landrieu must go the way of Blanche Lincoln!!!

Pryor too.

Tom Steyer, the hypocritical pig, made his dough by shorting coal, based on colluding with obama.

Now he supports all the green causes.

You can’t make this up in the best/worst of fiction.

Schadenfreude on August 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

l just had to look up “Fugazi.” This looks like a perfect time to use it. Just because he “opens” these to exploration doesn’t mean he’s obligated to grant any leases.

flataffect on August 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Begich too

Hagan too

Udall of CO too

Schadenfreude on August 11, 2014 at 2:23 PM

The enviro-whackos hate offshore drilling far worse than a pipeline, and specifically XL. Could be that the Regime is pushing Atlantic offshore drilling as a head fake, knowing they’re not going to approve it, just so they can give the enviros a big win on killing it in exchange for their backing off of the XL.

I know, I know, this is probably unlikely, since it would be a smart play and this Regime doesn’t do smart plays.

TXUS on August 11, 2014 at 2:24 PM

There’s something else at play here. The price of gas in my neck of the woods has dropped nearly $.30 a gallon in the last couple of weeks. This morning I saw it at $3.01.

This talk of approving oil drilling is an attempt to claim credit for lower gas prices….just in time for the silly season.

BobMbx on August 11, 2014 at 2:25 PM

TXUS, that was a way good comment on ISIS (last night).

Schadenfreude on August 11, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Schadenfreude on August 11, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Thanks, Schad, but I pray that I’m wrong about their plans here. Unfortunately, my gut says otherwise.

TXUS on August 11, 2014 at 2:32 PM

obama will likely propose a peace for oil deal with the isis crew. If isis promises to line the Israeli border with RPGs and rockets, he’ll order his pals in the oil companies to buy all their oil from isis only.

Diluculo on August 11, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Better chance of Rosie Odonnell being the SI cover girl next year.

hillsoftx on August 11, 2014 at 2:34 PM

He’ll appoint a blue-ribbon panel to study it.

SouthernGent on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 PM

If it’s for the good of the country, King Barack will oppose it.

New “study” out today, condemning the Keystone Pipeline.

The Democrats now have the “study” they want.

GarandFan on August 11, 2014 at 2:36 PM

After ignoring how many court orders?

formwiz on August 11, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Yea sure, and I know of a bridge in Parker, AZ that goes all the way to London.

Missilengr on August 11, 2014 at 2:38 PM

We have nothing to worry about up here in New England-after all, he has to protect Moochelle’s precious lobsters!

Del Dolemonte on August 11, 2014 at 2:38 PM

US refiner Axeon will not buy or accept delivery of any cargoes of disputed Kurdish crude oil for its Paulsboro, NJ, refinery, according to a company news release – @Reuters

davidk on August 11, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Better chance of Rosie Odonnell being the SI cover girl next year.

hillsoftx on August 11, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Very funny. They’ve already found the next SI swimsuit covergirl.

And it isn’t Kate Upton.

Happy Nomad on August 11, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Breaking News

Does someone speak Dictator? What does this mean?

Retweeted by zerohedge
Al Arabiya English [email protected]_Eng 2m
#BreakingNews: #Iraq PM Maliki says he cannot accept any violation of the constitution

Oil Can on August 11, 2014 at 2:40 PM

It sounds like another Harvard Alumni

zerohedge [email protected] 43s

Oil Can on August 11, 2014 at 2:42 PM


Obama to okay oil drilling off the Atlantic coast?

and then add:

“Obama’s defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state”

and does something begin too smell really fishy around here?

parke on August 11, 2014 at 3:09 PM

All smoke and mirrors. What people need to understand is that the Democrats promise “all of the above” energy policies, while allowing their liberal activists to throw a monkey wrench into the system through the legal process. This allows Democrats tell people that they are working hard to create jobs and while allowing their activists to grind everything to a halt. Look at the lawsuits regarding land drilling in Texas and you will see how this works. (And how many of these oil companies are paying their leases while fighting in court and not producing anything?)

The other piece is the number of leases that will be issued. Obama continues to preach “all of the above” knowing that his Administration will not issue any permits. This Administration has issued the least amount of permits under Obama, but Obama continues to take credit for all oil production increases, even though he hasn’t contributed to their expansion. The EPA will just make it impossible to be profitable regardless of what Obama says and does. So, Obama will pat himself on the back for expanding drilling and then demonize the companied that don’t want to bankrupt themselves for not taking advantage of his “generosity”.

djaymick on August 11, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Unconvincing head fake.

Dolce Far Niente on August 11, 2014 at 3:52 PM

The funny part is this will make him LESS popular with D’s yet will not change how any R feels about him plus the only Independents who would be affected were really D’s in I’s clothing.

So, it’s FU from the D’s, R’s and I’s.

Tard on August 11, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Uh.. the last time he said he would do this .. 30 days later we had a rig blow up in the gulf.. and darn.. he couldn’t do it. In fact.. he had an excuse to stop a whole lot of drilling.

JellyToast on August 11, 2014 at 4:25 PM