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With a stroke of his pen, President Trump began the process to re-open millions of acres of federal waters to make those areas once again eligible for off-shore drilling for natural gas and oil.
In a Roosevelt Room signing on Friday, Trump sought to undo a decision by former President Obama, made in late December, to bar energy exploration in large portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic as well as areas on the Atlantic from Massachusetts to offshore Virginia.
While the signing began the process, the re-write of leasing plans will take several years. The areas off-shore in the Arctic will be even more difficult to re-open as Obama invoked a provision of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Land Act that theoretically would keep the areas closed for the indefinite future.
Another barrier to oil companies moving forward to drill off-shore will also be the low oil prices currently plaguing the oil industry.
In Alaska, Governor Walker responded to the news of the signing of the “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” Executive Order saying:
“I am pleased with the announcement that areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are once again open for consideration for future energy exploration and development. Last year, our administration made clear that we supported an Offshore Leasing Plan which balances subsistence concerns with our need for economic development, and as a result, made nominations consistent with those principles to the Department of Interior. Disappointingly, our recommendations were not only excluded from the Department’s plan, but those same areas were withdrawn from eligibility for inclusion in future plans. Today’s executive order is an important step towards spurring additional oil production through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.”
The signing of the Executive Order by Trump today, is not expected to make much change as far as off-shore drilling is concerned, as it will take several years to open the areas up to lease and several more years for oil companies to undertake the difficult and expensive process to begin drilling.