President Obama's move allows drilling from Delaware to Central Florida, plus the northern waters of Alaska, and exploration could begin 50 miles off the coast of Virginia by 2012. He also wants Congress to lift a drilling ban in the oil-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles from Florida beaches.
Obama's plan to open more of the gulf would require Congress to lift a drilling moratorium imposed several years ago. An energy bill before the Senate would open a wider area of the eastern gulf than Obama is proposing, allowing drilling within 45 miles of some of Florida's coast. The plan faces a period for the public to comment.
The first lease sale for an area 50 miles off Virginia could come as early as 2012, but development in other areas of the South Atlantic would still be years away. The Interior Department said it plans seismic studies, environmental reviews and public meetings in the regions involved to determine if leases should be offered in those areas between 2012 and 2017.
Still off limits
The proposal includes no drilling off California, Oregon or Washington state, or in Alaska's Bristol Bay, which environmentalists consider especially sensitive.
New requirements are expected today to require automakers to build more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. The standards include first-ever rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, which have been blamed for global warming.
View from environmentalists
Exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, for example, drew outrage from the Center for Biological Diversity as a threat to polar bears. "Short of sending Sarah Palin back to Alaska to personally club polar bears to death, the Obama administration could not have come up with a more efficient extinction plan for the polar bear," said Brendan Cummings, the center's senior counsel.