The Trump administration unveiled a plan Thursday to open vast new stretches of federal waters to oil and gas drilling, erasing the policies put in place by previous Democratic and Republican administrations and setting up a conflict with state governments fearful about the risk of spills.
The proposal drew immediate criticism from Florida officials, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a supporter of President Donald Trump… Republican governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Maryland’s Larry Hogan have in the past opposed opening the federal waters off their states. North Carolina’s Democratic governor weighed in Thursday, saying the move represented a “critical threat” to his state’s economy.
“I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press release.
Even the U.S. military has also previously warned against allowing oil rigs near the Florida shore due to concerns they could interfere with F-35 fighter training maneuvers.
The Interior Department’s newly proposed five-year outer continental shelf plan, designed to align with Trump’s call for increased domestic energy production, would put up for auction the right to drill in areas offshore that in some cases had been off limits for decades. It would allow Interior to offer for lease federal waters in the Arctic, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, even as the department proposes to loosen offshore drilling safety regulations put in place after the massive 2010 BP oil spill.
Thursday’s move starts a process that will run for at least several months, since Interior is required to collect public comment on the plan. But the department has already taken some steps to open some formerly closed areas, proposing earlier Thursday to make available seismic survey data for the waters off Hawaii that would be useful for oil and gas companies looking to explore the area.
But it would put the administration — and oil and gas drillers — in direct opposition to state lawmakers who don’t want to see oil rigs dotting their coastline. Tourism in Gulf Coast states took years to recover from the 2010 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 people and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the water, ultimately costing the oil company more than $40 billion in fines and clean-up.
“The question of to-drill-or-not-to-drill has already been asked and answered” by coastal states now included in Interior’s leasing map, said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at environmental group Oceana. “This plan proposes to open up places that have been closed to drilling for more than 30 years, and we expect those communities to make their voices heard.”
(Excerpted from Politico 1/4/18)