The Trump administration appears all set to open almost all U.S.
coastal waters to oil drilling, including those off California and Florida
where activists have opposed to drilling asking the administration to spare
delicate ecosystems from oil spills.
The plan is unprecedented in its scope and no administration so
far had ever thought of having so many lease sales in a single five-ear
offshore drilling program.
According to the proposal released Thursday, the Interior
Department is proposing 47 possible auctions of drilling rights in more than 90
percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf, including Pacific waters near
California and Atlantic waters near Maine. The draft plan opens the door to
selling leases in 25 of the nation’s 26 offshore planning areas, including 19
auctions of the Alaska region, seven in the Pacific region and nine in the
Atlantic, including the straits of Florida.
“Under President Trump, we are going to become the strongest
energy superpower this world has ever known,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
told reporters in a conference call Thursday. “We want to grow our nation’s
offshore energy industry, instead of slowly surrendering it to foreign shores.
We will produce enough energy to meet our needs at home, and we will export
enough energy to lead the world.”
Opposing the proposal, Natural Resources Defense Council
President said that this ‘backward-looking approach…will place our coastal
communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster’
referring to 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Zinke has said in a news release that they will ‘strike the
right balance’ between the protection of the coastal people and the objective
of achieving American energy dominance, after taking into account the feedback
from the public and politicians.
Oil industry advocates argue companies need fresh territory
beyond the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling has been ongoing for decades and the
quest for crude has driven them into deeper waters.
National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi
called the Trump proposal a “bold and broad” proposal that rightly keeps
options on the table.
“Polls have repeatedly shown that most Americans want more
energy to be produced domestically, including looking for more oil and natural
gas resources off our shores,” Luthi said in a news release. He added that the
U.S. has restricted offshore exploration as other countries including Canada and
Mexico have stepped up their coastal activities.
It is not clear how much oil and gas exists under Atlantic
waters off the East Coast, because existing data stems largely from decades-old
geological surveys and more than four-dozen wells drilled in the 1970s and
1980s. Some petroleum geologists examining the location of continents before
they drifted apart point to discoveries and development in other parts of the
Atlantic Ocean as illustrating potential oil deposits along the U.S. East
Oil is still being produced from wells off southern California’s
coast, even though the government last sold leases in the area in 1984.