Reuters has more details:
The administration has been weighing the pros and cons of offshore drilling since it took office and put the brakes on a Bush-era proposal that called for drilling along the East Coast and off the coast of California.
For more than 20 years, drilling was banned in most offshore areas of the United States outside the Gulf of Mexico because of concerns spills could harm the environment.
Congress allowed the prohibition to expire in 2008 and former President George W. Bush lifted a drilling moratorium that year.Although Obama indicated interest in drilling during the presidential campaign, both the New York Times and Reuters suggest that the new policy could represent an olive branch to the oil industry and moderate Democrats and Republicans ahead of the climate control legislation that he will soon promote. But if the New York Times graphic outlining the newly approved drilling areas is correct, then environmentalists and coastal tourism companies (particularly in Florida) will have a lot to say about this move.
Environmental groups and some lawmakers continue to raise concerns about the impact increased drilling would have on coastal areas.