Obama Announces Expansion of Offshore Oil and Gas exploration

(CNN) — President Obama unveiled plans Wednesday to open large swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling — a move likely to please the energy industry but upset the administration’s environmentalist supporters.

The administration plan would include lifting a 20-year ban on drilling off the Virginia coastline, while putting the clamps on sites such as southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Parts of the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s North Slope, however, could be accessed.

The plan authorizes the Interior Department to conduct seismic surveys off the south- and mid-Atlantic coasts to “determine the quantity and location of potential oil and gas resources to support energy planning,” according to a statement from a White House official.

Roughly two-thirds of available oil and gas resources in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be opened to drilling if a congressional moratorium on oil and gas operations in the region is lifted, according to the statement. Drilling would occur over 125 miles off the Florida coast.

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