Trump Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to Drilling

Trump Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to DrillingTrump Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to Drilling

The US Interior Department announced plans to offer blocks in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans for oil and gas exploration in an ambitious new five-year offshore lease plan.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the draft proposal for offshore leasing between 2019 and 2024 would offer about 90% of the US outer continental shelf, the largest lease sale ever. The only area that will not be included is the North Aleutian Basin in Alaska, CNBC reported.

The plan would open the door for drilling in areas far beyond the US epicenter of offshore drilling in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, giving oil and gas companies the opportunity to explore areas left out of leases for decades.

But the move also sets up a battle with environmental groups and coastal governors opposed to drilling off the shores of states from California to North Carolina. Additionally, it comes at a time when oil prices are on the rise, but stuck in a range that makes multibillion-dollar projects in new offshore areas unattractive for many drillers. It would also overturn indefinite bans on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic announced during the final days of the previous administration, potentially sparking a court battle over executive authority. The administration's expansive lease schedule was widely anticipated.

In April, US President Donald Trump signed the America First Offshore Energy Executive Order instructing Zinke to revise the current five-year schedule for leasing blocks of the US outer continental shelf, the waters off the US shore that the federal government governs. At the time, he explicitly said it reversed the previous administration's ban on Arctic leases.

Zinke said on Thursday that the Interior Department would try to complete the process in "months".

Drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelf faces stiff opposition from many governors, including Trump allies like Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

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