Trump Plans to Open 90% of Offshore Land to Drilling

Tricia Pearson
January 6, 2018

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Thursday that offshore drilling will be expanded to multiple new areas off the U.S. coast in the coming years. Jerry Brown vowed to block "this reckless, short-sighted action". It also lifts a ban on drilling put in place by the Obama administration that protected more than 100 million offshore acres along the Arctic and Eastern seaboards.

But don't look for new oil platforms to pop up anytime soon.

Environmentalists called it a "shameful giveaway" to the oil industry.

"We are beginning to see progress in Bay restoration", he said. "We're in uncharted territory in a serious way".

The administration could begin selling leases to drill in the Atlantic and other closed-off areas as early as 2019 if the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management speeds through the planning process this year.

Sen. Kamala Harris called it "an incredibly harmful move." Sen.

The announcement was met with immediate concern from environmental groups and from Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who released a statement in the middle of Zinke's announcement Thursday afternoon asking to have waters off Florida's coastline removed from consideration. It was the nation's worst oil spill until the Exxon Valdez incident 20 years later off the coast of Alaska.

"Our ocean, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures to our coastal communities that will be polluted by new offshore oil drilling, regardless of whether or not there is a spill", said Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation. In late 2016, Brown called for a permanent prohibition on new drilling off the shore of the state. "This is going to be a dialogue of states and Interior and all the stakeholders". Hecht said states such as California generally control their coastal waters up to 3 miles off the coast. The state still has some sway over what happens in federal waters, but its determinations can be overturned by the federal government, Hecht said.

Environmental advocates, though, said California has other cards to play.

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"They have to jump through a lot of different hoops", he said.

The Trump Administration is proposing a major expansion of offshore oil leasing nationwide, including off the California Coast. Nearly all of that was produced inland, in Kern County and parts of Southern California, but the state's offshore platforms still produced about 11 million barrels, mainly off the coasts of Santa Barbara and Long Beach.

"It's better to produce energy here and never be held hostage by foreign enemy needs", Zinke said, adding it's a "clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance".

Twelve locations throughout the Gulf of Mexico, which is one of the most productive basins for oil in the world, will be opened up for drilling. As things stand now, 94 percent of those resources are off-limits, he said.

"To kick off a national discussion, you need a national plan - something that has been lacking the past several years", said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association. He also noted it was a draft proposal that could change after public input.

Starting Monday, residents, organizations and public officials have 60 days to formally oppose the recent plan.

In comments to the Department of the Interior, Chevron expressed interest in opening the Pacific Coast for leasing, but ranked Southern California as seventh on their priority list, after regions in the Gulf and Atlantic.

"Commercial fishermen can't lose another salmon season", he said.

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