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A Return to Common Sense for Our Coasts

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I haven't heard news this good in a long time. The Obama administration's announcement to protect the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and both U.S. coasts from offshore drilling as part of the next five-year plan is a massive win for our oceans and every living thing that relies on them.

What's more, the administration said it would reconsider Shell's proposal to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, a sign that the president's commitment to science and preparedness were not just lip service.

The decision is a reversal of the plans President Obama announced in March -- before the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history began staining the Gulf of Mexico black.

We at Oceana have been against expanded oil leasing since well before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But that disaster proved beyond a shadow of a doubt what we already knew -- that offshore oil drilling cannot be done safely, and that accidents inevitably happen. Drilling for oil in the oceans destroys fisheries and livelihoods, and pollutes our beaches, wetlands and waterways. This decision is thus a sensible response that will protect Florida, the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast from a crisis like the one we watched unfold in the gulf this summer.

And it's fitting that the decision was made while delegates are convening at the UN climate conference in Cancún as we speak. Scaling back drilling is not only a positive step forward for the health of America's oceans and coastal economies, but indirectly, for the health of our climate and the future of our planet. Coupled with the administration's announcement last week to create a new offshore wind power initiative along the Atlantic Coast, this has been a fine month for America's oceans.

It's heartening to see the administration finally taking the long view to protect our marine resources and reduce our nation's contribution to climate change. Bipartisan drilling moratoriums protected our coasts for more than 20 years. So hello, common sense, it's nice to see you again.

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