Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Obama Plans To Expand Offshore Oil Drilling
President Obama plans to open up parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to new oil and gas exploration. We support the plan for the Arctic but oppose the plan for the Atlantic.
The Interior Department’s five-year lease plan would allow drilling in three areas off the coast of Alaska and one in a portion of the Atlantic for the first time in nearly four decades. The five-year plan determines what areas will be on the auction block for oil and gas exploration between 2017 and 2022. The Interior expects 2021 to be the earliest a lease sale could happen.
The Interior Department believes the proposals would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop. The plan prohibits drilling in some areas and that the administration could close off additional areas going forward.
The plan was released days after the administration moved to declare the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain region of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) off-limits to oil and gas development.
A focus of the plan is development in the Gulf of Mexico, where 10 lease sales are proposed. It includes a new approach to hold two annual sales in the western and central Gulf, as well as a portion of the eastern Gulf. The move allows for industry for invest more in the Gulf, one of the most productive basins for oil and gas. We support expanded Gulf development.
Only one sale each will be allowed in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet areas of Alaska, according to the proposed plan. New development in the Pacific Ocean is excluded from the plan.
Four of the five areas deemed off-limits by Obama had previously been excluded from the 2012-2017 lease sales. Those include the Barrow and Kaktovik whaling areas in the Beaufort Sea, and 25-mile coastal buffer in the Chukchi Sea.
In the Atlantic, the proposal will open the door to oil and gas development along the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. A 50-mile coastal buffer zone would be required for lease sales in the Atlantic. We oppose this part of the plan.
It’s not the first time Obama has proposed opening up the Atlantic. He floated oil and gas development in the region for the 2012-2017 plan but scrapped the notion after BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. (The Hill, 1/27/2015)