Proposal would allow offshore drilling in 90% of U.S. waters (except Florida)

January 10, 2018, 10:23 a.m.
Huntington Beach, Sunset over the oil rig, 2014
Photo: Pete Markham/Flickr

A new offshore drilling map that would open up vast stretches of water for oil and gas drilling is just in the proposal stage — but it's sure to be a conversation starter.

Announced Jan. 4 by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019 to 2024 draft proposal would open more than 90 percent of U.S. oceans for leasing by oil and gas companies.

The proposal comes barely a week after the Trump administration announced plans to rewrite or eliminate safety rules and regulations for offshore drilling put in place following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

"We're embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America, particularly on offshore," Zinke said as he announced the plan. "This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. We are going to become the strongest energy superpower."

The proposal opens the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to drilling and increases opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean. The only area not included in the leasing plan is Alaska's North Aleutian Basin.

The draft is the result of President Donald Trump's April 2017 executive order that tasked Zinke with reviewing and overhauling the Obama administration's final five-year proposal for offshore drilling. That plan included a ban on offshore drilling the Arctic and Atlantic.

The proposal does not go into effect immediately. A 60-day comment period is next, in which the public, state officials, Congress and various interest groups can provide feedback on the proposal.

The National Ocean Industries Association praised the proposal, commending it for offering the "broadest possible acreage for potential inclusion in our nation's next offshore leasing program."

But 64 groups denounced the proposal in a joint statement, saying, "The proposal would expose the Arctic waters — our last undeveloped ocean — to drilling, put the Atlantic coast on the chopping block for the first time since 1983, open the Pacific coast — which has not seen federal drilling for decades, and further threaten the debilitated Gulf of Mexico."

A few coastal states' governors, including Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott, immediately declared their opposition to the proposal:

And just five days after ZInke's original announcement, Florida earned an exemption from offshore drilling. Zinke commented on the decision via Twitter, saying the president cares about "the local and state voice."

Scott also released a statement, praising the decision: "By removing Florida from consideration, we can now focus on how we can further protect our environment, including our proposal for record funding for the Everglades, our springs, our beaches and our state parks. I will never stop fighting for Florida’s environment and our pristine coastline."

The original proposal came barely a week after the Trump administration announced plans to rewrite or eliminate safety rules and regulations for offshore drilling put in place following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Editor's note: This file has been updated.

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