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The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Florida’s Republican governor, are opposing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024, which proposes to make over 90 percent of the total OCS acreage available to consider for future exploration and development. Under the current program, 94 percent of the OCS is off limits for oil and gas exploration and development.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region—including 2 each for Northern California, Central California, and Southern California, and 1 for Washington/Oregon, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region—3 sales each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, 2 for the North Atlantic, and 1 for the Straits of Florida.
There have been no sales in the Pacific Region since 1984 and no sales in the Atlantic since 1983. The plan of the Department of the Interior is not yet finalized and the public will have the opportunity for additional input.
“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike,” California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a joint statement.
“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action,” the three governors of the Pacific Coast states said.
Florida’s Governor Rick Scott (R) also issued a statement opposing the potential offshore drilling off Florida coasts. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget,” Governor Scott said.
California has the legal and regulatory means to fight the expansion of offshore drilling in the Pacific area, according to environmentalists and industry observers.
“Operators don’t tend to operate [off] states that don’t want production,” Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners in Washington, D.C., told the AP.
“This plan has the potential to put the precious marine resources of the Santa Barbara Channel at risk of dangerous oil development. After more than 30 years without any new offshore oil and gas leases, this is an irresponsible move that we adamantly oppose and will face head on,” Linda Krop, Chief Counsel at the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) said. “The catastrophic 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, and the more recent 2015 Refugio Oil Spill, confirm that there is no way to drill for new oil without causing devastating impacts to our coastal environment, tourism and recreation, and economy,” Krop said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.