U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on offshore energy development, which is looking to open more areas for offshore oil and gas exploration to secure American energy independence.
The order aims to expand offshore oil and gas exploration and production in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) through a review of the 5-year leasing program and reconsideration of certain regulations pertaining to offshore energy potential.
Implementing the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, the order directed the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to take action on OCS restrictions.
The 2 will work together to develop a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection to determine the offshore energy resource potential of the United States.
The Secretary of the Interior will also review areas closed off by the current five-year plan for sale of oil and gas leases in the OCS, without disrupting scheduled lease sales.
These planning areas include, but are not limited to: the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea, the Cook Inlet and areas of the Mid and South Atlantic.
The order is the current administration's latest move to overturn Barack Obama's environmental legacy which includes withdrawal of millions of acres in the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean from future oil and gas activity.
To remind, the Obama administration in November 2016 removed the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, offshore Alaska, from the proposed 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas lease sale program.
Obama then in mid-December blocked parts of the Bering Sea from any future drilling, via an executive order delineating a part of the Bering Sea as the «Northern Bering Sea Climate Resiliance Area.»
A few days later, the Obama administration made 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast and 115 million acres in the U.S. Arctic Ocean unavailable for oil and gas companies.
«I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities,» said President Donald J. Trump upon signing the order.
Secretary Zinke commented: «This executive order, coupled with the President's January 30th order on reducing regulations and the March 28th order on energy independence, puts us on track for American energy independence.»
Zinke added: «Now, I understand people may be concerned about any environmental impact that development may have, and that's a valid concern that the President and I share. The truth is, we fully expect that during the review process we will find ways to improve our regulatory requirements that strengthen safety precautions. Good stewardship of our lands and waters and responsible offshore development are not mutually exclusive.»
Industry applauds the move
The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing oil and natural gas industry, welcomed the Trump administration's executive action to advance domestic energy production.
API President and CEO, Jack Gerard, said: «Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation's energy future and strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance.»
The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) also applauded president Trump's move to expand offshore exploration and streamline seismic.
IAGC President, Nikki Martin, said: «The Administration's decision will lead to opening new areas for exploration and development, where stunningly 94 % of the Nation's waters are currently off limits, and reflects its recognition of the importance of the oil and gas industry to the U.S. economy and long-term security.»
Martin also urged the 2 departments to revoke Obama's administration decision to deny Atlantic seismic permits.
«It is still of the utmost importance that we allow offshore seismic surveys to be conducted, without delay, in the Atlantic and other frontier areas, to allow for informed decisions as a new 5-year lease plan is developed,» Martin explained.
Environmentalists plan court battle
However, not everyone is happy with the president's latest move. «It's as if Trump doesn't care at all about oil spills, whales or global warming,» Kristen Monsell at the Center for Biological Diversity said.
«This reckless giveaway to the oil industry could wreak havoc in the pristine waters of the Arctic and the rich oceans off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But we're ready to battle this dangerous plan in court,» Monsell added.
Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Vice President for U.S. Oceans at the environmental group Oceana, said: «The president's efforts to benefit energy producers won't make America great again. It will simply enable corner-cutting and set us up for another havoc-wreaking environmental disaster.»