The Trump administration announced plans Thursday to open up “nearly all” offshore waters to drilling, in a move that could further undo former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, the New York Times reports.
The new policy would allow energy companies to drill in parts of the outer continental shelf, Pacific and Atlantic waters, and the Gulf of Mexico, according to the report.
“We’re embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America, particularly on offshore,” interior secretary Ryan Zinke said. “This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. We are going to become the strongest energy superpower.”
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Environmental groups blasted the proposal, saying it puts shorelines at risk, and vowed to take legal action.
“This backward-looking plan puts oil and gas profits first and places our coastal communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster,” Rhea Suh, President of the National Resources Defense Council, a partner of Global Citizen, said in a statement.
“Trump and Zinke are acting against the wishes of the American people in their attempt to expand offshore drilling and roll back permanent protections for America’s public waters,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. “The Sierra Club will continue to stand with coastal communities in fighting back against this reckless plan, and we are currently examining our legal options to do so.”
The move comes after Trump signed the “America First Offshore Energy Executive Order” in April of last year. It would allow the administration to lease offshore waters to energy companies for five years, starting in 2019, CNBC reports.
Trump’s action comes little over a year after former US President Barack Obama banned new drilling leases in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Under the plan, all but one of 26 planning areas in the four bodies of water neighboring the US would be off-limits to oil and gas exploration, according to the Washington Post.
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Politicians from both sides of the aisle spoke out against the plan, saying it would endanger their coastlines.
“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) said in a statement. “My top priority is to make sure Florida’s natural resources are protected.”
“The Central Coast knows too well the damage caused by oil spills,” Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA) said in a statement. “I am committed to working with my colleagues to fight this misguided decision that risks the health and safety of our coastal communities.”
The plan won’t go into effect immediately, according to Zinke — and could take up to 18 months.
“It’s not going to be done overnight,” he said.