U.S. wants to expand offshore oil and gas exploitation

Environmental organizations and elected officials in the areas concerned are demonstrating their opposition to a project that affects 90% of US coastal waters.

The Trump administration announced that it intends to open up almost the entire US coastline to offshore oil and gas exploitation, as well as gas and power trading including off the coasts of California, Florida and the Arctic.

This measure would go back on coastal protection measures taken by Donald Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Safety regulations for offshore platforms were introduced after the 2010 explosion of the BP-operated DeepWater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. It killed 11 people and caused an oil spill over 180,000 square kilometres. The disaster cost the British oil company $61.6 billion.

The decision announced was applied by the year 2019 with a spread over five years, and would concern 90% of the American littoral waters. The government is considering granting forty-seven drilling authorisations over five years, said Natural Resources Secretary Ryan Zinke during a conference call. Of the 47 licenses, 19 would be issued off the Alaskan coast, seven in the Pacific, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic.

Support from 155 parliamentarians

Discordant voices have also been raised within the ranks of the Republican Party itself, Donald Trump’s own. Florida Governor Rick Scott reiterated his opposition to measures to develop offshore drilling in his state.

“I immediately requested a meeting with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns raised by this project and the need to delist Florida,” he wrote in a statement.

“We will listen to the views of all concerned parties,” Zinke said, adding that “Florida will certainly have a say. The Department of Natural Resources has already reported that 155 U.S. lawmakers have sent letters encouraging Zinke to open up new maritime areas for oil and gas exploration.

Zinke said the project is part of President Trump’s “America First” agenda. “There is a clear difference between weakness and dominance in energy,” he said. With President Trump, we will be the strongest superpower because we have the means. ยป

Opposition from NGOs

This measure, unpopular in the eyes of some elected officials in the areas concerned, was immediately denounced by environmental organizations.

“The expansion of offshore drilling is facing strong opposition from representatives of both parties [Republican and Democrat] in coastal communities as well as from state governors in states such as New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida,” said the Sierra Club, one of America’s leading environmental organizations.

“Rather than listening to the people they are supposed to serve, Trump and Zinke listen to the industrialists who funded their campaign and make up their administration,” the NGO accused.