Published: Sun, May 07, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

Trump seeks to expand drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

Trump seeks to expand drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

The executive order would basically seek to reverse the environmental policies of former president Barack Obama in restricting offshore drilling for gas and oil, according to CTV News Canada.

Trump's executive order directs his new interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to review Obama-era offshore drilling policies.

The order seeks to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to areas now off limits, in the Trump administration's latest move to expand domestic energy production.

Weeks before leaving office, Obama banned new oil and gas drilling in federal waters in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, protecting 115 million acres (46.5 million hectares) of waters off Alaska and 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic from New England to the Chesapeake Bay. The oil and gas industry has pushed for Atlantic drilling and pledged that exploration would be done safely, with lessons applied from the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr Trump, who said during his campaign that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement that Mr Obama played a lead role in negotiating, has yet to commit as president to formally withdrawing.

Zinke said he believes that reducing regulations, in combination with the President's March 28 order on energy independence, will "put us on track for American energy independence". "Who knows whether they'll win or lose", Book says. And global energy prices may deter investors from moving ahead with additional drilling in the Arctic Ocean in the near term, despite the effort to make more areas eligible for development. Under current restrictions, about 94 percent of that outer continental shelf is off limits to drilling.

"The Bering Sea Elders Group, that worked long and diligently to protect our 40 tribes along the Northern Bering Sea, are shocked and appalled by the action of President Donald Trump to eliminate the protections extended by President Obama under Executive Order 13754", one of the Elder representatives, Chuck Degnan, said.

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Ahead of the President's speech, Vice President Mike Pence called the order "an important step toward American energy independence".

"That's a commitment that the President made on the campaign, and another promise he's fulfilling", he said. Zinke said the review could take several years and until it is completed, nothing will be changed, adding that environmental concerns are "valid", even though the benefits of drilling outweigh the concerns.

The "America First Offshore Energy Strategy" could turn back bans in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

Along the Atlantic coast, though, more than 100 cities and towns have passed resolutions against offshore drilling. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown joined fellow Democratic governors in the other West Coast states in railing against the president's executive order Thursday night in response to news that the president would revise offshore drilling regulations.

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