The Trump administration recently announced its plan to do away with current policies put in place by previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, to allow offshore gas and oil drilling in almost all U.S. coastal waters.
This new proposal lifts the ban on offshore drilling that was introduced by the former president near the end of his final term in office, and signifies how serious the Trump administration is about promoting energy production.
While wildly popular with oil industry leaders and energy companies who will now have access to leases of off the California coast as well as over a billion acres along the Eastern Seaboard and Arctic area, this move has environmental groups and coastal state governments fearful of being at risk of catastrophic oil spills.
Leaders in the oil industry, including Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, say the reversal is long overdue.
“I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Pyle. “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.”
Oil companies, as well as Florida lawmakers, are anxious to hear the plan pertaining to the opening of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Managing director of ClearView Energy Partners and energy consultant Kevin Book said this region is especially attractive to the energy and oil industry due to the existing amount of infrastructure in the region.
In protest, over 60 U.S. environmental groups made a joint announcement calling the new plan a “shameful giveaway” to gas and oil companies and are currently exploring their various legal options to see what can be done to prevent the drilling.
The plan has also increased the tension between the White House and coastal states, such as Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington, who oppose offshore drilling.
President of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, Frank Knapp, fears the consequences of offshore drilling in U.S. waters. Knapp indicated that thousands of small businesses including hotels, restaurants, and commercial fishing operations, oppose drilling for gas and oil off their states’ waters.
“It’s not consistent with our vibrant tourism, fishing and recreation,” said Knapp. “Their concern is their livelihood, the local economies. We all saw what happened to the Gulf Coast with Deepwater Horizon.”
Rich Scott, Republican Governor of Florida, is not a supporter of the new plan, allegedly because his state has already experienced a disaster due to offshore drilling. Florida’s tourism industry took a hard hit in 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon accident Knapp referred to, that polluted the Gulf of Mexico waters with millions of gallons of oil and killed 11 people.
The administration’s move follows a motion in April 2017, wherein President Trump signed an executive order that required the Interior Department to take analyze Obama’s offshore drilling plan. The plan invoked a provision the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which blocked new lease sales in the Atlantic and Arctic regions.
According to Trump, this ban “deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.“ Almost 95% of the outer continental shelf, the submerged offshore waters between states, and the waters of the deep ocean were banned from drilling by this Obama administration plan. The new proposal would make almost 90% of those waters available to be leased, including 25 of 26 regions of the outer continental shelf for oil and gas drilling.
Department of Interior officials currently expect to have lease sales in place between 2019 and 2024. This would include 12 in the Gulf of Mexico as well as 19 sites off the coast of Alaska. There would also be new drilling areas off the California coast, which will be the first since the 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara that halted drilling.
Finalization of this new plan should take up to 18 months with court challenges expected.
~ Liberty Planet