An announcement was made this past Monday by newly confirmed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that 73 million acres off the coast of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida would be for lease in August as part of a five-year leasing plan:
Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent.
The finalization of 11 potential lease sites were completed in January just before Trump took office; 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and 1 in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Just before Obama left office, most of the Arctic Ocean and all of the Atlantic Ocean were taken off the list of potential sites. The Trump administration initially considering repealing the Executive Order that secured those lands, decided to keep current policy in place for now. Once Secretary Zinke gets all his appointees in place, that could change:
The Gulf is a vital part of the strategy to spur economic opportunities for industry, states, and local communities, to create jobs and home-grown energy and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
In the last weeks of his administration, Obama invoked a provision in a 1953 law that granted him wide latitude to withdraw U.S. waters from future oil and gas leasing. Although this was enacted through the action of an Executive Order, Obama was tactical in that the 1953 law does not include any type of reversal language. Neil Lawrence, Alaska director of the National Resources Defense Council, at the time said:
I see no evidence that Congress ever intended for these withdrawals to be reversible; courts should respect that.
Obama’s Executive Order made more than 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean off-limits to drillers. The same order designated U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas (Arctic) permanently off limits to drillers as well. The move was supported by environmentalists to protect marine life and slow global warming, but Trump promised to boost U.S. energy production through opening more federal lands and waters for exploration. Trump may very well roll back Obama era policies to fulfill that promise:
This is exactly the kind on investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work, Trump said of the investment by Exxon.
Energy independence, true energy independence, should not start with anything close to fossil fuel; coal, oil, gas. Water, wind and solar are the current technologies that create true energy independence. We will do well to remember that during the next oil or gas disaster reported on the news. What would we accomplish if the hundreds of billions spent every year for fossil fuels were instead invested into alternative energy sources for the future?