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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama's offshore drilling proposal includes Georgia coast

President Obama today is expected to announce plans to open up several offshore areas for oil and natural gas exploration. And according to the New York Times, Georgia's one of the states that could see activity off its coast.

Unnamed administration officials discussed details of the president's proposal early this morning with the Times:

The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

The amount of oil and natural gas that could be tapped — and which might not be accessible for several years — is largely based on decades-old studies, the Times says. According to the Wall Street Journal, the lifting of the ban would allow new studies to be conducted along Middle and Southern Atlantic states (of which Georgia is one). Several areas, including coastlines north of New Jersey and some of Alaska, would be off limits. Virginia, on the other hand, could see activity as early as next year.

Keep an eye on how Georgia lawmakers respond to this announcement.And we're not just talking about Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, the state's two Republican senators whose support Obama might be trying to win over to pass his climate change legislation.

Resolutions "urging" the federal government to lift the moratorium are easy to find under the Gold Dome. Last year, state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, sponsored an unsuccessful bill that basically directed Gov. Sonny Perdue to walk into the ocean and start digging. After slamming the president for health care reform, these elected officials might have to — gulp — actually commend him for something.

Also: Several Republicans — including Sen. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen of St. Simons and Rep. Ron Stephens of Savannah — represent areas along Georgia's coast. How the president's proposal jibes with their constituents' concerns will be interesting to watch. In 2008, Environment Georgia released a report about offshore drilling's potential impacts along the Peach State's coast. You can find that here.

The Times has a thorough look at the info available. We'll know more — specifics, reaction, potential environmental hazards — later in the day.

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