November 19th, 2016 by Stephen Hanley
If Donald Trump wants to encourage oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean or in the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern seaboard, he will have to wait until 2022 to do so. Hopefully, he will be an historical afterthought by then. On November 18, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finalized its plans to protect the Arctic Ocean and the entire Atlantic coast. Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is unaffected by the new regulations.
“We are hopeful that this announcement will help chart a new course forward in the Arctic Ocean,” Jacqueline Savitz, a senior vice president at Oceana, said in an emailed statement. “Companies have been given every opportunity to find oil and have failed at every turn because of the extreme conditions and limited window for operations there.”
The Department of the Interior estimates that 70 percent of the “economically recoverable resources” on the outer continental shelf are available under this plan. “The plan focuses lease sales in the best places — those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict, and established infrastructure — and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”
Is the plan Trump proof? Not completely. It takes two to three years to develop the five year program that is required by law for lease sales. Any revised plan would have to use updated scientific data and would be vulnerable to legal challenges from environmental groups if the new administration attempts to accelerate or short cut the planning process.
There are questions about whether drilling in the Arctic is even feasible. Shell, which had a lease in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, abandoned its plans for drilling there after public outcry and $7 billion in wasted investment. Drilling in the Arctic is difficult and dangerous, which makes it more expensive. “In addition to the environmental case against drilling in the Arctic, the business case has fallen apart,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Companies have pulled their interests from the Arctic because they have found it is just too expensive and dangerous of a boondoggle to pursue.”
The Trumpenator has bragged about how he will open up the Arctic to oil exploration, but even his base seems none to pleased with the prospect. When the Obama administration explored the option of opening up the Atlantic coast, opposition arose in the southeast — a region not known for its environmental activism.
In South Carolina, which has a big Trump constituency, 100% of coastline communities signed resolutions advocating against offshore drilling. In Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, the thought of possibly ruining critical fisheries and recreation areas along the coast sparked a massive backlash, even though inland lawmakers and various governors backed the plan.
It remains to be seen whether BOEM will approve pending seismic testing permits for the region. Seismic testing is a precursor to drilling. The technique, which even its inventor has spoken out against, uses loud sounds bounced off the ocean floor. The noise created is extremely disruptive to wildlife and fisheries.
“While we celebrate this important victory, we must not forget that the Atlantic Ocean is still not safe from destructive activities like seismic airgun blasting,” Oceana’s Savitz says.
Source: Think Progress
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