The Trump administration will propose an ambitious offshore oil and gas exploration plan Thursday that’s a complete reversal of Obama-era policies aimed at restricting drilling, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will announce 47 potential lease sales covering 25 of the 26 outer continental shelf planning areas. The Department of the Interior (DOI) will propose 19 lease sales off the Alaskan coast, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.
It’s the largest number of lease sales ever proposed and, if put into place, would overturn the Obama administration’s offshore plan that excluded most offshore regions to energy exploration.
DOI officials have been working for months on the new five-year drilling proposal, which would last from 2019 to 2024. Until then, the DOI will continue operating under the Obama administration’s most recent five-year plan.
The Obama administration’s 2017 to 2022 five-year plan only had 11 lease sales in three planning areas and excluded ninety-four percent of U.S. offshore areas. Former President Barack Obama also signed an order making large swaths of Arctic seas off-limits to drilling.
Trump’s five-year proposal would be a complete shift from the current policy, based on details of the plan viewed by TheDCNF.
The proposed five-year plan would open 90 percent of the outer continental shelf acreage to energy exploration covering 98 percent of recoverable oil and natural gas resources. DOI officials will hold public meetings in 2018 to hear from coastal communities.
Earlier in 2017, Zinke told reporters that the administration would reverse Obama’s decision to indefinitely put 100 million acres of Arctic seas off limits to drilling. The DOI’s plan will likely consider drilling in those areas.
Obama’s five-year plan largely excluded Arctic waters from oil and gas leasing, and it did not include any lease sales in the Pacific or Atlantic regions. Environmentalists favored the plan, but industry and coastal states opposed it.
Trump should expect resistance from Democratic-controlled states, particularly on the West Coast where offshore drilling has taken place for decades but where leases have not been issued in years.
Democratic governors of North Carolina and Virginia will also likely oppose the plan, as both states asked to be left out of any new five-year drilling plan. Activists are expected to use legal and regulatory means to stymie opening up more waters to drilling.
“We expect the administration to propose offshore drilling nearly everywhere in our U.S. oceans, including off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and even in the harsh conditions of the Arctic,” Diane Hoskins, a campaigner for Oceana, told Bloomberg.
Alaska lawmakers were particularly incensed with Obama administration policies locking up Arctic waters. Now, political fortunes have reversed and the Arctic is back on the table.
U.S. offshore areas are estimated to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 127 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to official estimates.
The move comes after the DOI repealed safety regulations put in place six years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Officials said the rules would cost nearly $1 billion over 10 years and do little for safety.
Environmentalists opposed repealing the safety regulations, which they say are necessary to protect against big spills. Activists are also likely to oppose Trump’s five-year drilling proposal, especially since it opened up new areas to potential drilling.
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