Trump order aims to remove U.S. bans on drilling in Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic

"There are no jobs on a dead planet," environmental group Oceana replied Friday.
By Doug G. Ware  |  April 28, 2017 at 3:41 PM
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April 28 (UPI) -- In a move decried by environmentalists and climate change experts, President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order for his administration to scrutinize federal rules that bar offshore drilling.

The action for American-First Offshore Energy Strategy directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to evaluate the five-year moratorium issued by President Barack Obama that prohibits oil and gas drilling in waters that surround the United States -- in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and in the Arctic.

The move is another attempt at rolling back environmental actions taken by the Obama administration in the name of fiscal prosperity.

Trump said in signing the order Friday that it will produce "countless" jobs and make the United States "far more energy independent."

"It's going to lead to a lot of great wealth for our country, a lot of great jobs for our country," Trump said.

Among the order's targets is the most recent five-year drilling plan covering 2017-22, issued by Obama's administration in November, which bars offshore drilling in a number of adjacent waters.

The plan listed 10 leases in the Gulf of Mexico and another near Alaska for drilling, but -- more significantly, experts say -- it removed parts of the Arctic from availability. Some of the regulations against drilling were put in place by Obama after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Since taking office, Trump has taken a number of steps aimed at establishing "energy dominance" for the United States. Among those actions are a move to reopen and maintain hundreds of U.S. coal mines, an attempt to scrap fuel mileage regulations for future American-made vehicles, and the revocation of a federal law that targeted corruption in the energy industry.

Like his other executive orders, though, this one is limited in its authority and experts say it faces a steep uphill climb -- in Washington and in federal court. Further, it could take years for Trump to unwind Obama's five-year drilling plan.

The order also directs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to look at the possibility of scrapping multiple national marine sanctuaries and monuments expanded or designated in the last 10 years by Obama's administration. This provision questions the presidential authority provided by the Antiquities Act of 1906 -- the same federal law Trump targeted earlier this week with hopes of nixing national monument proclamations made by former Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Like with national monuments, marine sanctuaries are protected from contamination and commercial exploitation.

"There are no jobs on a dead planet," environmental group Oceana said in a tweet Friday.

"Expanding dangerous offshore drilling puts vibrant ocean ecosystems and critical marine life at risk, and is bad for business, threatening thriving coastal economies and lucrative industries," it added in a statement. "Together, we must stand united against this grave threat, before it's too late."

Nearly 30 senators are calling on the president to protect the East and West Coasts from potentially dangerous offshore drilling. A group of senators also introduced legislation to bar Trump from wiping away the marine protections.

"Last weekend, we celebrated Earth Day," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said at a news conference Friday. "If President Trump had his way, Earth Day would [become] Drill the Earth Day.

"It could put our beaches, our fishermen, our environment ... in the crosshairs for an oil spill that would devastate our shores."

Trump's Friday order will likely be challenged in court, where multiple other executive orders have been blocked -- including two attempts at barring U.S. entry for refugees and immigrants from six largely Muslim nations. Earlier this week, a federal judge clipped a Trump immigration order that threatened to cut billions in federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities."

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