Environmental Policy News

Trump’s Executive Orders Could Open Atlantic, Arctic to Offshore Drilling

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addressed the Trump Administration’s offshore energy policy goals while speaking at the annual meeting of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) in Washington, D.C. on April 6, signaling that the administration wants to increase offshore drilling in places where the Obama Administration moved to restrict access.

The speech comes on the heels of an executive order from the administration, released March 28, which directs all federal agencies to “review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

The U.S.’s Outer Continental Shelf, managed by Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, accounts for nearly 18 percent of domestic crude oil and 4 percent of domestic natural gas supply. Most recently, a Gulf of Mexico lease sale yielded $275 million in high bids. On the renewable energy front, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has awarded 12 commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast and approved transmission support for the first U.S. offshore wind energy facility.

Concerning upcoming executive orders under consideration by the Trump Administration, Bloomberg reports that one, “is set to push the Interior Department to schedule sales of new offshore oil and natural gas rights in U.S. Atlantic and Arctic waters, amending a five-year Obama administration leasing plan that left out auctions there, according to an industry representative who has discussed it with officials. The order is also expected to begin the process of revoking former President Barack Obama’s decision to indefinitely withdraw most U.S. Arctic waters and some Atlantic Ocean acreage from future leasing.”

The changes would not occur immediately upon release of such a directive, but would be subject to the usual environmental review and comment period requirements in place. Such policy changes would also face legal challenges from environmental groups. However, multiple sources have told ECO magazine that the broad language of the March 28 executive order could lead to the Interior Department recombining BOEM and BSEE in the interest of streamlining regulatory requirements for offshore energy projects; and the general consensus is that the current administration will challenge environmental regulations on a broad basis.

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