Offshore drilling on the US Atlantic coast for oil and gas took place from 1947 to the early 1980s. Oil companies drilled 5 wells in Atlantic Florida state waters and 51 exploratory wells on federal leases on the outer continental shelf of the Atlantic coast. None of the wells were completed as producing wells. All the leases have now reverted to the government.
Although no oil or gas have been produced from beneath US Atlantic waters, there are active offshore fields to the south in offshore Cuba and to the north in offshore Canada.
Each coastal state along the Atlantic coast owns the territory extending three nautical miles (3.45 statute, or land miles) from the shore at mean low tide, and has jurisdiction to decide whether or not, and under what terms, to lease the territory for oil and gas. The federal government owns and controls the minerals between three and 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the shore.
In accordance with congressional restrictions and presidential orders, no federal leasing has taken place on the offshore US Atlantic coast since the early 1980s. The federal government had scheduled a lease sale offshore Virginia, to take place in 2011, and in March 2010, US President Barack Obama announced his intention to open the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic planning areas to oil and gas exploration. However, lease sale plans were cancelled in May 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In December 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a ban on drilling in federal waters off the Atlantic coast through 2017.
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“What do we want with this vast and worthless area, of this region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds, of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs; to what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever hope to do with the western coast, a coast of 3,000 miles, rockbound, cheerless, uninviting and not a harbor in it?”
—For the State of Kansas, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)
“The Atlantic Ocean was something then.”
—John Guare (b. 1938)
“Dont spend your time in drilling soldiers, who may turn out hirelings after all, but give to undrilled peasantry a country to fight for.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)