The Trump administration is reversing the long-standing energy policy that has put 94 percent of the outer continental shelf of the United States off limits to oil and gas exploration and production.
The announcement from Interior said:
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced the next step for responsibly developing the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024, which proposes to make over 90 percent of the total OCS acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development.
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands, and parks,” Zinke said in the announcement.
“Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period,” Zinke said. “Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks.”
“The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance,” Zinke said.
The left-wing media, including Politico, did not include Zinke’s remarks about the agency’s careful consideration of which areas on the outer continental shelf are “appropriate” for oil and gas exploration and production.
The Trump administration unveiled a plan Thursday to open vast new stretches of federal waters to oil and gas drilling, erasing the policies put in place by previous Democratic and Republican administrations and setting up a conflict with state governments fearful about the risk of spills.
The proposal drew immediate criticism from Florida officials, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a supporter of President Donald Trump who is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this year, as well as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
And Republican governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Maryland’s Larry Hogan have in the past opposed opening the federal waters off their states. North Carolina’s Democratic governor weighed in Thursday, saying the move represented a “critical threat” to his state’s economy.
“I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in a press release, Politico reported.
The Interior’s announcement also provided details about each area that will be considered under the proposal, including the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
Those details include the fact that there have been no lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico since 1988 and none in the Atlantic since 1983.
Politico found more critics than supporters of the plan, including Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“The governors of Virginia and North Carolina have specifically asked to exclude those states from a five-year leasing plan,” Weaver said. “You’re going to see a fight here, not only with locals but with state governments.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, supports the proposal.
“The plan announced today is a long-term commitment to securing our energy future, and would help cement America’s role as an energy superpower, creating jobs and contributing to our economy,” Karen Harbert, chief executive officer of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, said.
Interior said that public meetings will be held around the country starting on January 16 to receive comments on the proposal.