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Trump moves to vastly expand offshore drilling

  • FILE - In this May 13, 2010 file photo, pelicans float on the water with an offshore oil platform in the background in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. The Trump administration on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 moved to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off the California coast for the first time in more than three decades. The Channel is one of those areas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) Mark J. Terrill

  • Oil drillings offshore of a service pier in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Southern California near Carpinteria in May 2015. ap file photo

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican Senators on immigration in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Washington. Sources say the Trump administration is moving to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans, including opening up federal waters off the coast of California for the first time in more than three decades. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik



Associated Press
Thursday, January 04, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved Thursday to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off California for the first time in more than three decades.

The new five-year drilling plan also could open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Florida to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades. While some lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, the plan drew immediate opposition from governors up and down the East Coast, including Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland, who pressed President Donald Trump to withdraw their states from consideration.

Democratic governors on both coasts blasted the plan. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “another federal assault on our environment” while California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to block “this reckless, short-sighted action.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the plan, saying that responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines.

The five-year plan would open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to development by private companies, Zinke said, with 47 leases proposed off the nation’s coastlines from 2019 to 2024. Nineteen sales would be off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific, including six off California.

“This is a draft program,” Zinke told reporters during a conference call. “Nothing is final yet, and our department is continuing to engage the American people to get to our final product.”

Industry groups praised the announcement, which would be the most expansive offshore drilling proposal in decades. The proposal follows Trump’s executive order in April encouraging more drilling rights in federal waters, part of the administration’s strategy to help the U.S. achieve “energy dominance” in the global market.

A coalition of more than 60 environmental groups denounced the plan, saying it would impose “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.

“These ocean waters are not President Trump’s personal playground. They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies,” read the coalition’s statement, which was signed by leaders of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters and other groups.

The proposal comes less than a week after the Trump administration proposed to rewrite or kill rules on offshore oil and gas drilling imposed after the 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The Trump administration called the rules an unnecessary burden on industry and said rolling them back will encourage more energy production. Environmentalists said Trump was raising the risk of more deadly oil spills.

The Gulf of Mexico is still recovering from the BP spill, said Diane Hoskins, campaign director for the marine conservation group Oceana.

“Americans have seen the devastation that comes from offshore drilling,” she said. “Will we allow Florida’s white beaches or the popular and pristine Outer Banks to share a similar fate? What about the scenic Pacific coast or even remote Arctic waters?”

Zinke’s announcement “ignores widespread and bipartisan opposition to offshore drilling,” including from more than 150 municipalities nationwide and 1,200 local, state and federal officials, Hoskins said.