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Washington’s Offshore Drilling Plan Due In Weeks

The Trump administration is set to unleash its offshore, five-year oil drilling plan within weeks, Reuters reported, quoting an unnamed source in the know. The plan is being prepared amid strong opposition from the local authorities of coastal states.

Last year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed to open up more than 90 percent of the coastal waters in the U.S. outer continental shelf in 47 lease sales that would include areas off the coast of California that were last leased during the 1980s.

The U.S. outer continental shelf holds technically recoverable reserves estimated at 550 million barrels of oil and 1.25 trillion cu ft of natural gas. The Gulf of Mexico was made the focus of the 2017-2022 plan because of the consistent interest of oil and gas explorers in the area, the high resource potential, and not least, the extensiveness of production infrastructure, a statement from the Department of the Interior from 2017 said. During this period, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold two lease sales for the Gulf of Mexico every year.

However, the Trump administration has made it perfectly clear that it would like to open more acreage to drillers along the coast of the country. That has drawn opposition from both Democrat and Republican leaders in the coastal states.

For example, USA Today earlier this month quoted South Carolina’s Republican Governor Henry McMaster as saying “The administration is well aware of the state’s position, which is why we oppose the drilling." Georgia’s also Republic governor said "I support offshore drilling. I just don't think we need to be doing it off the coast of Georgia.”

These two are a small part of the opposing group that has had the Department of the Interior struggling to find a way to accommodate individual state interests and Trump’s America-First energy strategy. So far, one proposed solution has been to shrink the size of blocks to be offered under the new five-year lease sale plan, or to even remove some blocks from the plan.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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