On 28 April 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that directs the Department of Interior to streamline seismic regulations and expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, with an eye toward future energy exploration in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic. The Order revokes numerous protections enacted under the Obama Administration.
The Order states that the Secretary of the Interior shall, “give full consideration to revising the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales . . . so that it includes, but is not limited to, annual lease sales, to the maximum extent permitted by law, in . . . the Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic.”
Concerning the Arctic, the Order directs the Secretary of the Interior to review the Arctic Rule governing exploratory drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, and “publish for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding this rule.”
Concerning Marine Sanctuaries, the Order states, “The Secretary of Commerce shall, unless expressly required otherwise, refrain from designating or expanding any National Marine Sanctuary . . . unless the sanctuary designation or expansion proposal includes a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential within the designated areas.”
It also directs a review of any Marine Sanctuaries designated within the last decade to be completed within six months, including a look at budgetary impacts, the consultation processes, and “the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to any impacts on production in the adjacent region.”
The Order also directs the Interior Department to develop a “streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection aimed at expeditiously determining the offshore energy resource potential of the United States within the Planning Areas.”
It specifically orders, “expedited consideration of incidental harassment authorizations, incidental-take, and seismic survey permits,” and a review of a NOAA memorandum “Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing.”
The Order specifically revokes former President Barack Obama’s Executive Order from December 2016, known as “Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience.” It also modifies language in all Obama-era Marine Sanctuary designations to allow for an expiration of protection.
Also of note are provisions ordering the Interior Department to reconsider both the Financial Assurance Regulatory Review, Proposed Offshore Air Rule, and Well Control Rule, each of which could change how the Feds regulate offshore energy production from blowout prevention to emissions and decommissioning.