President Trump will issue an executive order in order to give oil companies more opportunities to drill offshore, reversing Obama-era policies.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told an industry conference in Washington on Thursday that this new directive will be issued soon. The session was closed to the press according to three attendees who spoke on condition of anonymity. They also said that Zinke did not provide specific details on the executive order during his presentation to the National Ocean Industries Association.
This order will amend a five-year Obama administration leasing plan that left out auctions there, according to an industry representative who has discussed it with officials.
The order should begin the process of revoking former President Barack Obama’s decision to indefinitely withdraw most U.S. Arctic waters and some Atlantic Ocean acreage from future leasing. Environmentalists say it would be unprecedented for any president to rescind such a designation, and the reversal would almost certainly be challenged in court.
While President Trump can set those policy changes in motion with an executive order, hard work falls to bureaucrats in the Interior Department and it could potentially take years.
Wedging new Arctic and Atlantic lease sales into the government’s five-year plan would require environmental analysis and public comment periods — perhaps consuming a year for seas north of Alaska and even longer for parcels along the U.S. East Coast.
Trump’s move could benefit energy companies that now are focusing their U.S. offshore drilling programs on the Gulf of Mexico, including Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Statoil.
The Obama administration previously had considered selling leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as well as 104 million acres of the mid- and south-Atlantic before ultimately foregoing those potential auctions. Though time consuming, restoring Arctic and Atlantic lease sales would be relatively straightforward.
President’ Trump’s administration faces a large challenge while trying to undo Obama’s decision to remove roughly 125 million Arctic acres and almost 4 million acres in the Atlantic Ocean from future oil and gas leaking.
Obama invoked an obscure provision in a 1953 law that doesn’t explicitly give presidents the power to reverse previous designations. Now, environmentalists say it would be unprecedented for any president to cancel Obama’s designation, and the reversal would be challenged in court.