NEW ORLEANS, March 17 (UPI) -- As the Obama administration pulls the Atlantic Ocean off a drilling list, activist backers on the southern U.S. coast said they're wary of Gulf of Mexico plans.
A consortium of environmental groups announced plans to hold a demonstration March 23 at the Superdome in downtown New Orleans to protest plans for the leasing of 43 million acres of maritime acreage in the Gulf of Mexico.
Marissa Knodel, a campaigner with advocacy group Friends of the Earth, said expanding access to the Gulf of Mexico carries with it significant environmental risks.
"Our message is simple: The Gulf Coast should not be treated as an energy sacrifice zone, but a place worthy of protection for present and future generations to experience and enjoy," she said in a statement.
BP released 3.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 following the string of failures that led to the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The incident left 11 rig workers dead and resulted in one of the worst environmental disasters for the industry.
A court ruled in September that BP's activities at the Macondo well beneath the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico amounted to willful misconduct.
Last year, the Interior Department proposed dozens of new rules for offshore drilling equipment in order to ensure the series of failures that led to the 2010 rig disaster and subsequent oil spill won't happen again.
President Barack Obama's government this week pulled Atlantic acreage from a planned drilling list, citing military, tourism industry and environmental concerns. The proposed acreage for the Gulf of Mexico may hold as much as 965 million barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it one of the largest leases ever planned during the Obama administration.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates output from the Gulf of Mexico will account for about 21 percent of total U.S. crude oil production by next year.
"It's time to stop drilling and spilling and move on to job-generating clean energy," David Helvarg, the executive director of conservation group Blue Frontier, said. "Besides, no wind spill ever destroyed a beach or a bayou."
The first eight lease sales under the five-year program brought in around $3 billion in high bids.
Washington this week announced plans for more wind energy development in the Atlantic Ocean.