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offshore drilling platformeAn outpouring of opposition from coastal communities was a significant factor in federal officials’ decision announced today to withdraw plans to permit drilling for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced during a news conference at noon the revised proposal for the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017 to 2022.

The proposed program does not schedule any lease sales in the mid- and south-Atlantic areas, a decision based on strong local opposition, current market factors and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses.  The program released today evaluates 13 potential lease sales in six planning areas–10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three potential sales off the coast of Alaska.

“This is a balanced proposal that protects sensitive resources and supports safe and responsible development of the nation’s domestic energy resources to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Jewell said. “The proposal focuses potential lease sales in areas with the highest resource potential, greatest industry interest, and established infrastructure. At the same time, the proposal removes other areas from consideration for leasing, and seeks input on measures to further reduce potential impacts to the environment, coastal communities, and competing ocean and coastal uses, such as subsistence activities by Alaska natives.”

The Interior Department said it received more than 1 million comments on the draft proposed program, released in January 2015. Input came during 23 public meetings and outreach with members of the public, nonprofit organizations, industry, elected officials and other interested parties across the country.

“Public input is paramount to our planning process, and the proposal benefits from extensive stakeholder engagement,” Hopper said. “We will seek additional input from citizens, industry, other federal and state agencies and elected officials as we develop the proposed final program.”

A 90-day public comment begins today and those comments will be considered as the Interior Department develops the final five-year program.

Governors and lawmakers, especially Republicans, have called for drilling as a way to add jobs and bolster the economy, but environmentalists and tourist-dependent coastal communities from Virginia to Georgia have largely opposed the plan.

Dare County and all of its towns and Hyde County all passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling.

Below is a quote from Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, regarding the federal government’s decision to pull the southern Atlantic states from the offshore drilling plan:

“This is a victory for the people of the Outer Banks,” Woodard said today. “I am proud that our community took a strong and united stand against offshore drilling. The many letters, phone calls, comments and resolutions from our citizens, business community, and elected leaders appear to have made a difference.”

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