An announcement by two federal agencies on Friday that opens the door to new offshore driling for oil and gas in the nation's coastal waters is receiving criticism as an example of the exactly wrong course of action at a time when serious efforts must be made to transition away from fossil fuels in the face of climate change.
“It’s troubling to see the Obama administration pushing to expand offshore drilling... Fossil fuels are what have gotten us into this climate mess so it makes no sense to double-down on oil and gas development." —Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Walter Cruickshank made a joint announcement as they opened a forty-five day period for industry and public comment on schedule of new lease sales for drilling in federal waters that would take place between 2017-2022.
The new five-year leasing schedule will replace the current schedule of drilling operations that are set to expire in August of 2017. The current leases, according to the BOEM, currently include about 6,200 active OCS leases, covering more than 33 million acres – the vast majority in the Gulf of Mexico. Of those, 1,064 are producing leases, covering 5.2 million producing acres – the highest acreage under production since 2008.
As The Hill reports:
The [new] request, published in Friday's Federal Register, officially opens the books to a wide range of options. Interior must consider sales in all 20 outer continental shelf planning areas.
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Prominent oil lobby American Petroleum Institute (API) is pressing the department to consider areas that are otherwise off limits.
"The department should thoroughly analyze the entire resource-rich areas of interest," API policy adviser Andy Radford said on a call with reporters Friday.
Radford added that Interior should "draft an expansive leasing plan that maintains current leasing areas and seeks to unlock new areas that are currently off-limits."
But critics are raising serious objections to the new wave of potential leases and offshore drilling.
“It’s troubling to see the Obama administration pushing to expand offshore drilling, especially as his own scientists are sounding the alarm about global warming," said Miyoko Sakashita, an expert on ocean policy for the Center for Biological. "Fossil fuels are what have gotten us into this mess so it makes no sense to double-down on oil and gas development."
"Offshore drilling also comes with huge risks for our oceans, beaches and wildlife," Sakashita continued. "An oil spill in a place like the Arctic would be devastating for polar bears and walruses. Rather than trying to drill in more places along America’s shores, the Obama administration ought to halt any new offshore drilling leases and pursue safer, cleaner energy sources.”