Long road ahead for Trump offshore drilling order

Paterniano Del Favero
Aprile 30, 2017

More troubling for those who oppose the drilling work is that Trump's order also calls for a review of all regulations concerning oil, natural gas and renewable energy leasing in federal waters as part of a policy "to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf".

The order could lead to a reversal of bans on drilling across swathes of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico that former President Barack Obama's administration sought to protect from development.

"Today, we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs", Trump said at a White House signing ceremony.

Zinke said Thursday that the review won't be limited to drilling for oil or natural gas, but will include an opening for wind energy development, too. He ordered a freeze of fossil fuel exploration in 98 percent of federal waters, or 115 million acres, off the coast of Alaska, and restricted drilling in 3.8 million additional acres.

It also asks Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise Obama's plan for offshore drilling rights sales between 2017 and 2022.

He used a provision in a 1953 law - the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act - that gives the president authority to make future oil and gas exploration on unleased parts of the ocean lying three miles offshore and under US jurisdiction, out of bounds.

Though portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas were briefly opened to exploratory drilling on the outer continental shelf, Royal Dutch Shell, the only major producer to drill exploratory wells, exited the area in 2015.

George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, said his council may consider filing suit at some point to challenge an expansion of offshore drilling.

The current five-year plan "remains in existence, so there is no immediate change", Zinke added.

"There's a patience and perspective out in America that some of us inside the Beltway lack", Conway said. "With a whopping 94% of our outer continental shelf now locked away from oil and gas development, a thorough review of the regulatory framework governing our offshore energy resources is warranted and logical".

The oil industry has said it should at least be allowed to search for oil in the Atlantic, in case there's anything there worth drilling for. He did so with the cooperation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also closed off Canadian Arctic waters to new drilling leases.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the President's use of executive orders, an action Trump condemned Obama for exercising, is different now because Trump's have the effect of giving "power back in the hands of people, take back the power the federal government has seized". However, she said, they realize the limitations of it.

"Let me be clear: that would be a huge, bad, stupid mistake". The five year drilling ban was put in place by Obama in December 2016, after Trump's election. The ban relies on an arcane provision in a 1953 law. He also created the Atlantic Ocean's first marine monument, preserving roughly 130 miles of sea canyons and underwater mountains off New England.

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