By Steve Szkotak, Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Some coastal residents applauded President Barack Obama's decision to open portions of the East Coast to oil and gas exploration as a way to create jobs and ease the country's reliance on foreign oil. Others feared marine life could be harmed by drilling or that tourists would shun a resort area if a nearby oil rig were to be involved in a spill.
Bill Dunleavy's objection, though, boils down to not wanting to look at hulking oil machinery in the distance when he goes sailing around the coastal community of Sullivans Island, S.C.
"Being a sailor, and I'm out there sailing all the time, I hate to see oil rigs going up along the East Coast — not only for environmental issues but for navigational issues as well," said Dunleavy, 59, who owns a bar two blocks from the beach in the community east of Charleston. "I don't think anyone wants to sit looking at oil rigs. We have pristine beaches."
Wednesday's decision by Obama was also widely panned by environmental groups from Maryland to Florida, who said it would exact a high environmental cost while slaking only a sip's worth of the nation's huge thirst for energy.
"We're appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans," said Jacqueline Savitz of Oceana, an environmental group. "Expanding offshore drilling is the wrong move if the Obama administration is serious about improving energy security, creating lasting jobs and averting climate change."
Obama's plan modifies a moratorium that for more than 20 years has limited drilling along coastal areas other than the Gulf of Mexico. It allows new oil drilling off Virginia's shoreline and considers it for a large chunk of the Atlantic seaboard.
Shrimpers pointed out that oil rigs haven't harmed their industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Many in the tourism industry were less enthused, worrying vacationers would avoid their area if there were ever a spill.
Reaction among the region's political leaders was mixed. Some said it would help ease the nation's reliance on foreign reserves.
"The president's decision to allow energy exploration off Virginia's coast will mean thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions in new state revenue and tens of billions of dollars in economic impact for the commonwealth," said Gov. Bob McDonnell in Virginia, which is first in line to begin drilling that wouldn't begin for at least five years.