The Trump administration unveiled its draft five-year plan for offshore drilling last week to replace the Obama administration plan that went into effect last year. Trump is proposing to open to oil and gas development vast untouched areas of coastal waters including the Atlantic and the eastern Gulf of Mexico — part of his administration’s stated quest to make the US the world’s “strongest energy superpower.”
How vast is the area targeted for drilling? While the current federal offshore drilling program crafted by the Obama administration bars leasing to private drilling companies in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the Trump plan would open more than 90 percent of the OCS to potential future oil and gas development. It proposes 19 lease sales off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic (three each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, two for the North Atlantic, and one for the Straits of Florida), and seven in the Pacific.
Among the areas now being considered for drilling are the waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina — even though governors of those states have expressed opposition amid widespread concern about the impacts in coastal communities.
As the Southern Environmental Law Center pointed out:
The Trump administration’s proposal defies formal requests from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe that their states be omitted from the five-year plan. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam have also voiced opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling.
The administration of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper submitted formal comments to federal regulators in July opposing offshore seismic testing for oil and gas reserves, the first step toward drilling. At that time Cooper also stated his opposition to offshore drilling, saying that it would pose unacceptable risks to the economy, environment, and coastal communities.
Then in August, Gov….