Offshore oil drilling could come to the Georgia coast. The Obama administration is considering allowing it in the Atlantic, and will soon release a plan that could narrow down where it would be permitted.
The Atlantic has been closed to drilling -- or even looking -- for oil for decades. Last year, the Department of the Interior said it would consider oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. The next step is a draft plan, expected to come out soon, that could declare some areas, or even the entire coast, off limits.
More than 100 cities on the Atlantic coast, including Brunswick and Savannah, have passed resolutions opposing offshore oil exploration.
“The risks associated with oil exploration off the Southeast Atlantic coast are simply just too high for the gain that would be associated with that exploration,” said Bill Sapp, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Political opinion is mixed. Most Democrats, and many Republicans representing coastal areas have come out against the idea. But others are eager to bring a new industry to rural areas.
And the industry is eager to come.
“Keeping federal offshore acreage off-limits to development is not in America's interests,” said Erik Milito, with the industry group the American Petroleum Institute. He said the last time anyone looked for oil in the Atlantic was decades ago, and technology has improved.
“We don't know what's out there,” he said. “And we need to have the opportunity to run the seismic, drill some exploratory wells, and see what the reservoirs may hold, what the basins may hold.”
After the Department of the Interior releases its draft plan, the agency will collect public comments on it.