WASHINGTON – Today at the White House, President Donald Trump, joined by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Members of Congress from coastal states, signed the America First Offshore Energy Executive Order. The order aims to expand offshore oil and gas exploration and production in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) through a review of the five-year leasing program and reconsideration of certain regulations pertaining to offshore energy potential. The order also directs the Secretary of the Interior to implement a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data collection to determine offshore energy resource potential.
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities,” said President Donald J. Trump.
In 2008, federal leasing revenues for the OCS were nearly $18 billion dollars. By contrast, in 2016, leasing revenues were approximately $2.8 billion. That’s a drop of more than $15 billion that would otherwise go to the Treasury or toward funding important conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund.
Secretary Zinke hailed the executive order:
“Today President Trump continues to build on the success of his first 100 days in office by signing The America First Offshore Energy Executive Order which directs me, the Secretary of the Interior, to conduct a review of the current five year development plan on the Outer Continental Shelf for offshore oil and gas exploration as well as review regulations to streamline permitting for development and seismic research.
“This order will cement our Nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy security for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.
“This executive order, coupled with the President’s January 30th order on reducing regulations and the March 28th order on energy independence, puts us on track for American energy independence.
“American energy independence has three major benefits to the environment, economy, and national security:
“First, it’s better for the environment that the U.S. produces energy. I’ve spent a lot of time in countries across the world, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty it is better to develop our energy here under reasonable regulations, rather than have it produced overseas under little or no regulations.
“Second, energy production is an absolute boon to the economy, supporting more than 9 million jobs and supplying affordable power for manufacturing, home heating, and transportation needs.
“And lastly, achieving American energy independence will strengthen our national security by eliminating our reliance on foreign oil and allowing us to assist our allies with their energy needs.
“Now, I understand people may be concerned about any environmental impact that development may have, and that’s a valid concern that the President and I share. The truth is, we fully expect that during the review process we will find ways to improve our regulatory requirements that strengthen safety precautions. Good stewardship of our lands and waters and responsible offshore development are not mutually exclusive.
“One thing that does not change between Administrations is our commitment to safety. That remains our number one priority. We have really smart, energetic folks working on our frontlines in the Gulf who dedicate their entire work day to maintaining a strong offshore safety culture. We are going to keep it that way and we will hold companies accountable where necessary.”
The Executive Order directs the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Commerce to take action on OCS restrictions.
The Secretary of the Interior will review areas closed off by the current five-year plan for sale of oil and gas leases in the OCS, without disrupting scheduled lease sales. These planning areas include, but are not limited to: the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea, the Cook Inlet and areas of the Mid and South Atlantic.
The Secretary of the Interior will review four rules and regulations put in place last year that could reduce exploration and development in the OCS. These include:
The Department of the Interior oversees 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf which contains an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas. The OCS accounts for about 18 percent of domestic crude oil and four percent of domestic natural gas supply. The Gulf of Mexico alone, covering 160 million offshore acres, has 48.46 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 142 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
However, under the current five-year plan, 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf is off limits for responsible oil and gas development.
As of March 1, 2017, only 16 million acres on the US OCS (out of a total 1.7 billion acres) are under lease for oil and gas development. Of the little area that is open to development, more than 97 percent of the leases are in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the previous administrations, Ninety-four percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf’s (OCS’s) 1.7 billion acres was put either off-limits to or not considered for oil and gas exploration and development under the current (2017-2022) leasing program.
Days before leaving office, on January 17, 2017, the Obama Administration finalized the latest schedule for oil and gas lease sales that would last for five years until 2022.
Alaska has seen a number of nearby OCS areas closed off to development and now has the second highest unemployment in the country, as its resource sectors, particularly oil and gas, have lost thousands of jobs.