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Atlantic Drilling Back on Table After Spill Delay

President Barack Obama first put Atlantic drilling on the table in March 2010, as part of a strategy to bring more Republicans to the negotiating table for a comprehensive climate change bill in the Senate.

But just weeks later came the worst oil spill in U.S. history, when the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion caused millions of gallons of oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico.

By May, Obama had delayed new offshore drilling nationwide and pulled the Atlantic lease sale planned off the Virginia coast.

The administration signaled last summer that it was warming up to the idea of exploring the Atlantic again after allowing seismic airgun testing in areas off the East Coast to update decades-old data on oil and gas reserves there. State governments from Virginia south to Georgia have all shown interest in learning more about the reserves’ exact locations and how much oil is available.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell emphasized at a recent hearing that the draft proposed plan is just the first of several steps taken before Interior issues a final five-year drilling strategy, with or without an Atlantic option.

From there, the department will narrow down even further which areas in the approved drilling blocks will actually be offered for leasing.

“This is like the top of the funnel, if you will,” she said of the final offshore plan. “Only things that are included there could possibly happen during that five-year period.”

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