The offshore drilling plan would expand drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and along parts of the east coast as initially proposed under the George W. Bush administration, while redrawing the lines around Alaska. The west coast, where public opposition remains higher, would remain off limits.
Many environmentalists cried foul. This was to be expected, and may even benefit the administration. Others, such as the centrist Environmental Defense Fund, viewed the plan through the lens of political pragmatism. On the other side, industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute expressed cautious approval while correctly pointing out that there is a difference between releasing such a plan and making it happen within a reasonable time frame.
At the same time, the administration announced that it would finalize its greenhouse gas standards for vehicles tomorrow, officially kicking off a new regulatory era in the United States (for a bit of background on the Supreme Court case that sparked all of this, click here). And earlier this week, the agency formally announced some kind of a regulatory tweak that effectively subjects major stationary polluters – manufacturing facilities and power plants – to greenhouse gas permitting procedures beginning this January.
How the administration will use this new authority is as yet unclear, but the EPA is systematically laying the groundwork for a top-down regulatory program if Congress fails to enact a climate bill. Which might help explain why the climate discussions in the Senate refuse to roll over and die, despite being written off as pretty much impossible, at least this year, given the bloody battle over health care and the looming elections, by Washington insiders.