New Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is wasting no time implementing Trump’s agenda at his respective department. He announced yesterday that his department will offer 73 million acres in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration development–the opposite of what his predecessor Sally Jewell did.
“Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent,” Secretary Zinke said in a statement. “The Gulf is a vital part of that strategy to spur economic opportunities for industry, states, and local communities, to create jobs and home-grown energy and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) March 6, 2017
The proposed Gulf of Mexico lease sale – Proposed Lease Sale 249- includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Here’s more from Interior:
Proposed Lease Sale 249, scheduled to be livestreamed from New Orleans, will be the first offshore sale under the new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022 (Five Year Program). Under this new program, ten region-wide lease sales are scheduled for the Gulf, where the resource potential and industry interest are high, and oil and gas infrastructure is well established. Two Gulf lease sales will be held each year and include all available blocks in the combined Western, Central, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Areas.
The sale would include “all available unleased areas in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico,” the Department of Interior press release notes. Per Department of Interior estimates, they anticipate 0.211 to 1.118 billion barrels of oil from 0.547 to 4.424 trillion cubic feet of gas developed when this region-wide lease sale goes live.
This is a bold contrast to the previous administration, which was keen to banning offshore drilling and gas exploration altogether. Although news outlets suggest this Interior department is replicating a similar action from the last administration, Zinke is expected to challenge the bans on offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When he testified before Congress in January, he affirmed his support for offshore drilling to reduce reliance on foreign oil.
He said, “I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation than overseas with no regulation … We need an economy.”
The Obama administration placed moratorium on any new opportunities for offshore drilling, which has had negative ramifications on the economy and job growth. On November 8, 2011, the Obama administration placed a five-year moratorium prohibiting any new offshore drilling by only permitting lease sales to occur on areas already open to oil and gas exploration. This five-year plan excluded the majority of Alaska and made the entire Pacific and Atlantic Coasts off-limits to offshore drilling and gas exploration–thus undermining efforts to stimulate job growth.
Moreover, former President Obama used the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act last December to protect large areas in the Arctic Ocean and string of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean which stretch from Massachusetts south to Virginia. The latter move supplemented a five-year moratorium already in place in the Atlantic–which deliberately made much of the eastern seaboard off-limits to oil exploration. This moratorium is set to expire this year.
The Department of Interior is responsible for overseeing our nation’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, among many things. Zinke has committed to not only protecting wildlife and public lands, but to also overseeing the safe exploration of natural resources. This is a good first step to restoring sanity in this department.
Let’s hope the economy and environment can begin to work in sync with one another.