Trump Administration Potentially Opens Wide Swaths of Waters for Off-Shore Drilling

Kulluk grounded on Sitkilidak Island on Kodiak Island in January, 2013. Image-Coast Guard overflight
Kulluk grounded on Sitkilidak Island on Kodiak Island in January, 2013. Image-Coast Guard overflight

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced a vast expansion to offshore drilling in the  Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans that can open up drilling offshore in areas of the country where drilling has been banned for decades and opening new areas for exploration.

The move by the administration and the Department of Interior has spurred opposition up and down the Atlantic seaboard and the west coast, while oil industry groups praised the announcement.

The announcement begins the process of opening up 47 lease sales around the country’s off-shore regions, including 19 in the waters around Alaska. It is a striking about-face that is the single largest expansion ever proposed by the government. The plan opens up 100 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s fragile Arctic region that was placed under moratorium in the closing days of the Obama administration.

While delegations up and down the Eastern Seaboard and California registered opposition to Trump’s move, Alaska’s administration and delegation welcomed it. Governor Walker said  in a statement:

“The Department of Interior’s draft five-year offshore leasing plan is an important step toward allowing Alaskans to responsibly develop our natural resources as we see fit. My administration is committed to responsible resource development, and has established a pattern of working successfully with our Congressional Delegation and federal agencies to unleash Alaska’s energy potential. I thank Secretary Zinke for his Department’s work on this plan, and invite him to cooperatively engage with Alaskans as the plan’s development process continues. We look forward to continued dialogue to ensure that any offshore development takes into account environmental and safety concerns, and robust input from community residents who live, work, and subsist in the lease sale areas included in this proposed plan.”

Alaska’s senior senator said this  of the Trump decision, “This draft program is another positive step as we seek to reinforce our nation’s status as a global energy leader.”

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Junior  senator Dan Sullivan said, “This administration continues to take important and necessary steps to reverse a series of misguided attempts to shut down responsible resource development across Alaska and the Arctic.”

“I am very happy with the President’s and Secretary Zinke’s announcement of 19 lease sales in the Alaska outer continental shelf (OCS). Opening Alaska’s OCS to oil and gas exploration will maintain American security and strengthen our economy,” said Congressman Young. “The area under Alaska’s OCS contains ample resources for our nation. The previous administration crippled American development which caused our country to fall behind the rest of the world.[xyz-ihs snippet=”adsense-body-ad”]Many opponents of the plan say that the plan is another sign that Trump is doing the bidding of the oil industry.

In the arctic regions of the state, where ice moves through, jeopardizing operations, the industry has not shown that they can responsibly operate and prevent an oil spill and clean one up if it were to occur. With responders literally weeks away from potential drilling sites, cleanup in the icy region would be belated and insufficient at best. Offshore drilling and a spill, if it were to occur, would create a hazard for the diverse wildlife and the indigenous populations that depend on them.