Charleston Post and Courier
July 1, 2017
President Donald Trump has formally reopened Atlantic waters to leasing for oil and natural gas drilling — areas that were closed by the Obama administration after a massive outcry from coastal residents and businesses.
Trump on Friday ordered the process to begin for issuing leases for 2023-27. The order was widely expected. The president has pushed for more drilling offshore and to redo the Obama decisions that limited it.
Obama closed off much of the Atlantic to drilling and did not approve leasing off the Southeast during the 2017-2022 period. In April, Trump ordered a review of those decisions.
The latest order follows the administration’s call for streamlining the reviews that protect marine animals during the leasing process. The lengthy process can seriously delay and restrict the work, and were a legal wedge used by conservation groups looking to derail leasing under Obama.
The order also came on the heels of a study demonstrating that seismic blast testing for the oil and natural gas — the first step to drilling — harms not only wildlife but also elemental food source species such as zooplankton.
“America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come,” Trump’s executive order said in part.
For many, the fight over drilling cuts to the heart of coastal life, where interests are divided between exploring for the potential economic benefit of fossil fuels, to restricting exploration to protect marine life and a billion-dollar tourism economy.
Conservationists who pushed opposition to the leasing those waters quickly denounced the latest move.
“The Trump administration seems to be hellbent on ruining our tourism, commercial fishing and recreation Atlantic Coast economy,” said Frank Knapp, founder of the anti-drilling Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast “The president is in for a ferocious fight from Main Street to the halls of Congress. We will block all oil development efforts.”
Exploration and drilling company executives quickly praised the order.
“Opening more offshore areas for exploration would mean more jobs, new economic activity, increased energy security and the continued march toward U.S. energy dominance,” said Randall Luthi, president of the pro-drilling exploration National Ocean Industries Association.
Opposition to the drilling and testing has grown to millions of East Coast residents, more than 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, 41,000 businesses and a half million fishing families.