Reversing yet another of his predecessor’s actions on energy and the environment, President Trump on Friday signed an executive order that paves the way for a massive increase in offshore oil-and-gas drilling.
In brief remarks at the White House, Mr. Trump said the order — which is likely to result in new energy exploration in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico — will boost the nation’s economy and directly create jobs. The order undoes former President Obama’s ban on new offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic and Arctic, which was put in place during the final weeks of his term.
It also directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a more thorough review of the nation’s entire offshore drilling policy.
“We’re opening it up,” the president said. “Today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs. Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves … This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration. It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, so hear that — it reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”
Environmentalists immediately panned the move and said it’s yet another sign that the White House is beholden to the fossil fuels industry.
“When President Obama withdrew irreplaceable and sensitive waters of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling, it was a bold step in protecting these seas for our future and girding the global community against the worst effects of climate change,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental group Earthjustice. “Trump is again going all-in for his Big Oil backers, with an executive order that attempts to undo President Obama’s historic action.”
The White House and outside specialists have estimated that as much as 94 percent of the nation’s offshore areas remain closed off to energy exploration. Federal revenues from offshore drilling leases have dropped from about $18 billion in 2008 to about $2.8 billion in 2016, according to the Interior Department.
Opening up at least some of the off-limits area will be a boon for the nation’s economy, according to Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
“Now, the Trump administration is stepping in to take immediate action that will bring back production in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic that were taken off limits, and also conduct a more comprehensive review of our offshore policies,” she said. “We are hopeful that this evaluation will lead to opportunities for production in the Mid-Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, including the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and expanded access in Alaska.”