President Obama's decision to keep 104 million acres of the mid- and south-Atlantic Ocean off limits to oil and gas drilling is a victory for the environment and a statement about the need to reduce fossil fuel usage.
Tuesday's decision is billed as a reversal of the administration's announcement of a year ago to open the waters to lease sales from 2017 to 2022, but the president said at the time that the plan would be subject to revision after roughly 20 public hearings were held. At those hearings, environmentalists made the case for the dangers posed to whales, sturgeon and other creatures inhabiting those waters and advocacy groups in Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas warned of the potential impact on tourism, the fishing industry and the coastlines.
In contrast, the oil and gas industry offered only perfunctory approval of the plan to open the waters a year ago, and his implacable Republican foes focused instead on complaining about the president's global warming measures. Mr. Obama has learned belatedly that there is no appeasing his political enemies.
Instead, he is focusing upon building his solid environmental record. Tuesday's decision boosts that record while sparing the coastal Atlantic from a Gulf of Mexico-style oil spill and emphasizing the need to seek alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels.