SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — President Donald Trump aims to expand offshore drilling in U.S. waters with an executive order issued Friday morning.
“…We’re opening it up,” Trump said, arguing that doing so will clear the way “for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”
The America First Offshore Energy Executive Order states that, “It shall be the policy of the United States to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf.”
The U.S. Outer Continental Shelf refers to all submerged land belonging to the U.S., starting about three nautical miles off the coast and continuing to 200 nautical miles offshore.
The executive order calls for a review of a five-year-plan that dictates which federal locations are open to drilling.
Democratic senators have already voiced their opposition. In anticipation of Trump’s order, a group of senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would prohibit the Secretary of the Department of the Interior from revising the country’s offshore drilling plan and opening up new areas for drilling.
Twenty-seven Democratic senators also penned a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, urging him not to revise the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas leasing Program, arguing that allowing oil drilling would threaten key industries in their states – such as fishing and tourism – with the risk of an oil spill.
California’s U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris both signed on to the letter and co-sponsored the new bill.
California officials say the move opens the door for new drilling off the state’s coast.
“We will vigorously oppose new drilling off the shores of our coast. California is leading the way in clean energy production and policies that preserve our state’s pristine natural resources,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday. “Instead of taking us backwards, the federal government should work with us to advance the clean energy economy that’s creating jobs, providing energy and preserving California’s natural beauty.”
California state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is crafting legislation to prevent new drilling in federal waters by blocking new leases for pipeline construction and other infrastructure needs, and to blocking new oil and gas from being transported through coastal waters controlled by the state, the Sacramento Bee reported.
In addition, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement calling Trump’s order “short-sighted” and stating:
“We still remember what happened in Santa Barbara in 1969, Port Angeles in 1985, Grays Harbor in 1988 and Coos Bay in 1999. We remember the oil soaked beaches and wildlife and the devastating economic impacts to local communities and the fishing industry. Now is not the time to turn back the clock. We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of big oil above our communities and treasured coastline.”
Environmental nonprofit Greenpeace has highlighted the dangers of offshore drilling, pointing to the 1989, Exxon Valdez spill that caused 11 million gallons of oil to flow into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. After Exxon spent $2 billion on clean up efforts, they were only able to recover approximately less than 7 percent of the oil that spilled.
Trump was joined at the signing ceremony of the executive order by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all Republicans who represent Alaska in Congress and praised the order.
Sen. Murkowski said, “And I strongly believe that over time, today’s order will provide substantial benefits by putting our state on a better path to create jobs, generate new revenues, refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, and strengthen our leadership in the Arctic.”
Trump’s order also revokes an executive order issued by President Barack Obama that aimed to protect the needs of Alaska’s Native tribes as well as marine mammals and wildlife in an area delineated as the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
On Friday afternoon Secretary Zinke — who has previously served as the director of the Santa Barbara, California-based oil company QS Energy (formerly known as Save the World Air), commended Trump’s executive order.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.