By Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Bloomberg – President Donald Trump will open the door to new oil and natural gas drilling in Pacific waters off the coast of California with a directive Friday that sets up a certain clash with environmentalists.
Trump will order the Interior Department to review locations for offshore oil and gas exploration and consider selling drilling rights in territory that former President Barack Obama put off limits, according to people briefed on the order who spoke on the condition of anonymity before it is issued. That includes U.S. Pacific waters, as well as Arctic and Atlantic acreage left out of the five-year schedule of lease sales issued by Obama in November.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday nothing is off the table. “We’re going to look at everything,” Zinke said when asked about potential oil leases off the Pacific coast. “A new administration should look at the policies and make sure the policies are appropriate.”
Trump will sign a directive Friday to “move our country even further toward our goal of energy independence,” according to a White House aide who didn’t offer further details.
Federal regulators have tacitly written off the possibility of new oil and gas development along the coast amid opposition ignited by a 1969 well failure in the Santa Barbara Channel that fouled beaches and helped give birth to the modern environmental movement. Offshore platforms visible from the state’s southern shoreline are still extracting oil from more than 40 longstanding leases. The last drilling lease sale was in 1984.
Although the Obama administration formally asked the public to weigh in on a potential sale in federal Pacific waters as it began assembling the current five-year auction schedule, it ruled that territory out at the first possible opportunity. Given the opposition from elected officials and residents, Trump may eventually do the same.
Senators representing California, Oregon and Washington have locked arms to fight offshore drilling, arguing that any oil spills in the region could jeopardize fishing and tourism along the coast. They want federal legislation to permanently prohibit offshore drilling by their states. California Governor Jerry Brown has been pushing for a similar moratorium.
“New oil drilling along our coasts is unnecessary and dangerous,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California. “There’s no reason to expose more coastal economies to the risk of disastrous spills so oil companies can drill for hard-to-reach fossil fuels. Rather than signing reckless executive orders, the president should focus on investing in safer, cleaner energy sources.”
“It is very clear that the communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts don’t want and don’t need offshore leasing or drilling,” said Mike LeVine, senior Pacific counsel for the conservation group Oceana. “It is equally clear that President Trump is prioritizing politics and corporate interests ahead of…
By Jennifer A. Dlouhy