More than a year after it dangled the prospect of drilling for the first time in the Atlantic Ocean to a hungry oil sector, US officials reversed course and said they were scrapping the plan.
The surprise decision, revealed first by the US Interior Secretary, Sally Jewel, is a blow to the oil lobby but was instantly hailed by environmental groups. Ms Jewell said keeping an existing prohibition on drilling in the region “protects the Atlantic for future generations”.
Floated in January last year, the plan would have allowed exploration in areas at least 50 miles from the coastlines of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. It drew instant opposition from seaside and tourist communities in all those states, including Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina.
The military also expressed concern that it would interfere with naval operations. “President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change,” said Jacqueline Savitz, the vice-president of Oceana, an environmental group. “This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old-fashioned grassroots organising.”
Energy companies had pushed hard for access to the Atlantic Ocean, which offers a rich harvest of an estimated 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil as well as important reserves of natural gas.Reuse content