WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- City officials and business leaders visited Washington, D.C., to pressure the White House to keep Atlantic basins off limits to energy explorers.
The U.S. Interior Department in February released a draft proposal for 2017-22 for access to federal waters. Ten leases are planned for the Gulf of Mexico, three for offshore Alaska and one, a debut, for waters in the Atlantic.
The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035.
Officials with ocean advocacy group Oceana joined coastal leaders in calling on the White House to keep the area off limits. Billy Keyserling, the mayor of Beaufort, S.C., said it's a matter of balancing economic priorities.
"We are putting the Atlantic coast at risk for less than 4 percent of the nation's total oil and natural gas reserves," he said in a statement.
According to Oceana, around 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion in gross domestic product may depend on fishing, tourism and recreation along the Atlantic coast. Those benefits may be at risk if drilling proceeds, it said.
"Allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic would be a disastrous business decision for states with economies relying on vibrant coastal tourism," Frank Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
Florida lawmakers in early 2015 worked to introduce a ban on oil and gas work off the state coast, saying an early push for east coast drilling was too risky.
Virginia Petroleum Council Executive Director Mike Ward countered earlier this year the industry already supports about 140,000 jobs in the Virginia and adds more than $7 billion to state coffers.
Washington last year opened up Atlantic waters from Virginia to Florida for seismic testing.