Obama pushes ahead with offshore oil ban

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The Independent US

The Obama administration was expected to announce that it will not allow drilling off the Atlantic Coast or off Florida in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as part of a new plan running from 2012 to 2017, an official has said.

The new drilling plan reverses President Barack Obama's pledge made last spring just before the BP oil spill to open areas to energy exploration off Florida and the Atlantic Coast, including Virginia waters.

In March, the administration said energy companies would be able to explore off the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida and 125 miles beyond Florida's shore in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

While the new drilling policy is likely to please environmentalists that are a large part of Obama's political base, Republican lawmakers are likely to slam the decision. When they take control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress, they have promised to investigate the administration's offshore drilling policy and press the White House to support traditional energy sources like oil, coal and nuclear.

The administration also will not lease any tracts off the Alaskan coast until 2012 as part of the five-year drilling plan, the official said.