Trump Moves to Unlock Offshore Oil and Gas

Published Apr 28, 2017 7:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order that directs the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Commerce to review offshore oil and gas development restrictions.

The Secretary of the Interior is instructed to review areas closed off by the current five-year lease sale plan, without disrupting scheduled lease sales. These planning areas include:
•    Western and Central Gulf of Mexico
•    Chukchi Sea
•    Beaufort Sea
•    Cook Inlet
•    Mid and South Atlantic

“Today we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs, said Trump. “Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. And when they say closed, they mean closed.  

“This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.  I pledged to take action, and today I am keeping that promise. This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration.  It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban.”

National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi said: “It’s a new day and a new attitude for American energy.”

The Energy Information Administration predicts that in the year 2040, traditional forms of energy, particularly fossil fuels, will provide almost 80 percent of our energy needs, says Luthi.  

“For years, we have sought a comprehensive U.S. energy policy. However, in reality, our nation’s energy policy has been a cobbled-together raft, drifting with the prevailing political winds and currents of the ‘favored’ energy source of the day… With a whopping 94 percent of our outer continental shelf currently locked away from oil and gas development, a thorough review of the regulatory framework governing our offshore energy resources is warranted and logical.

“The six percent of the offshore that is open for exploration will provide about 20 percent of our Nation’s oil next year and about five percent of our natural gas, and the more we produce at home, the less we need to import.”

API President and CEO Jack Gerard welcomed the action. “We must particularly look to and embrace the future development of domestic sources of oil and natural gas in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Exploration in this area is critical to our national security, and we continue to see our neighbors in Mexico and Cuba pursue these opportunities. The Eastern Gulf is in close proximity to existing production and infrastructure, and opening it would most quickly spur investment and economic activity, which could create thousands of jobs and provide billions of dollars in government revenue.”

The Consumer Energy Alliance also welcomed the move. President David Holt said: "By considering new opportunities to develop America's abundant offshore energy resources, today's action will help cement American energy security for decades to come. This will also drive economic growth and job opportunities in communities across the country and reduce our dependence on energy from countries, which lack the strong safety and environmental safeguards that we have here at home.”

Rhea Suh, President of the NRDC Action Fund, said Trump's attempt to reverse Barack Obama’s actions is disastrous. “Drilling off our coasts harms our oceans, marine wildlife and coastal communities with leaks and catastrophic oil spills — like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, which dumped more than 130 million gallons of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico seven years ago.

“The federal government itself estimates a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea if drilling proceeds there.

“More drilling will also set us back in our fight against climate change, shackling us to the heavily polluting fossil fuels of the last century, driving more carbon pollution and slowing America's transition to clean energy.”

Congress can still stop this catastrophe-in-the-making, she says, by passing legislation that will put the Arctic and Atlantic, and all American coastal waters, permanently off-limits to Big Oil.