The U.S. Interior Department will release today its new five-year plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as well Alaska and Virginia.

The proposed drilling area includes major fishing areas and is set to be controversial.

The new leasing plan “would significantly increase the nation’s domestic energy supplies while protecting the coastal and marine environments, and provide a major economic stimulus to the nation and participating coastal states,” the Interior Department said.

Details are likely to include:

Making an area in the Gulf of Mexico south of Florida’s panhandle available for drilling. The “Lease Area 181” is a small part of a much larger 8.2 million acres that Congress approved for oil and gas development in December.

Opening 5.6 million acres to drilling in waters northwest of the Alaska Peninsula, known for endangered whales and the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon.

Opening up Alaska’s Bristol Bay that was put off limits to drilling in 1990 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The bay is a major fishing area for salmon, cod, red king crab, halibut and herring.

Environmentalists say the proposed leasing areas overlap the migratory route for all the wild salmon returning to Bristol Bay and the western Alaska river system.

Interior’s plan would, for the first time, allow drilling off Virginia’s eastern shore, in a wedge-shaped area between the Maryland and North Carolina state lines stretching to a point about 200 miles east.

Congress will have until the end of June to review the plan. Meanwhile what do you think?

One Comment

  • If there are readers out there on the Virginia coast that want to fight to keep your waters and beaches rig free, Oil Change wants to hear from you. Please feel free to call us on 202-518-9029 or email info[at]

    Also, lets not forget to mention that this is the work of the Mineral Management Service (MMS), a part of Interior that was created in 1982 by the Reagan administration, specifically to facilitate the expansion of the oil industry on our coasts. Isn’t it time we did away with this oil welfare agency?

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