No ocean safe from Trump’s fossil fuel agenda
Environmental attorneys are going to be busy the next few years under an onslaught of proposed fossil fuel development projects, including offshore oil and gas drilling.
As part of the Trump administration’s misguided push for “energy dominance,’ the federal government is preparing to create a new new nationwide offshore leasing plan that could open all U.S. waters to dangerous drilling. Last week, the administration said it will ask the fossil fuel industry where it wants to drill.
“Trump just planted a big ‘for sale’ sign in America’s oceans. But oil executives who think they’ll have a free pass to drill at will need to know that coastal communities are fighting back,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Selling off our seas for short-term profits is a bad deal for Americans, wildlife and our changing climate.”
Last week’s action comes in response to Trump’s April 28 executive order to expand offshore drilling. It puts every ocean at risk, even the Pacific, which hasn’t seen a lease sale in federal waters since 1984. The request for information issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will ask companies to propose areas for offshore oil development, even if those waters are currently off limits.
The Bureau will hold a comment period on the request to inform a new proposal to replace Obama’s 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas program. The Obama administration’s draft plan initially included 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, and one lease sale each in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The final plan only included the lease sales in the Gulf and Cook Inlet. The Arctic and Atlantic were removed from the final plan due to the significant risks to wildlife and sensitive areas, widespread public opposition and conflicts with military use.
Following issuance of the final plan, President Obama permanently protected most of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic from future oil and gas leasing using his authority under Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Trump’s April 28 order attempted to reverse those permanent protections, but the Center and other groups challenged that order with a lawsuit on May 3. That lawsuit is pending in federal court in Alaska.
“Trump’s appalling actions threaten every ocean and coastline in the country,” Monsell said. “We’ll be fighting tooth and nail to make sure his disgraceful administration doesn’t endanger polar bears, whales, local economies and our climate with more dirty drilling.”