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Concern Over Offshore Drilling Proposal South Of Md.

WASHINGTON (WJZ) -- Opening the door to oil rigs off the Atlantic Coast, possibly just south of Maryland. That's what President Obama is proposing.

Alex DeMetrick reports it's not going to happen without a fight.

When a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, billions of gallons of crude oil were released and plans to expand offshore drilling were bottled up. Not any more.

The Obama Administration is proposing to open an area off the Atlantic Coast believed to contain oil reserves along the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Environmental groups are against it.

"We still think it's inappropriate to drill anywhere, including those four states, especially if we're serious about climate change and protecting coastal economies," said Athan Manuel, Sierra Club.

Getting people in the water puts billions of dollars into those coastal economies. The BP spill crushed that income for Gulf states--not to mention the environmental impacts.

That disaster prompted the president to form an investigative commission on that spill, including scientists from the University of Maryland. Their findings in 2011 included recommendations.

"Better science would have helped us understand the risks. Realistically, whether a spill like this could happen. What the effects would be to be better prepared for," said Dr. Donald Boesch, University of Maryland.

Four years later, Congress has yet to act on any recommendations.

"There haven't been many structural changes to the regimen that oversees offshore drilling, which is one of the concerns we have with doing more of it until they approve U.S. laws," Manuel said.

But the prime worry is global warming. Maryland's coastline is more vulnerable than most states to rising sea levels.

Opponents argue bringing more oil to the surface to burn doesn't help, although supporters say it could mean jobs and billions of dollars in much needed state revenue.

Years have been set aside to debate the merits of drilling off the coast, with the first lease unlikely to be sold before the year 2021.

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