President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday beginning a five-year development plan for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the East Coast of the United States, another step to reverse actions taken by President Barack Obama.
The move, which comes months after Obama banned drilling in millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back the former presidents environmental record and comes as Trump is rushing to stack his first 100 days with as many accomplishments as possible, primarily through the use of executive actions.
Trump, before signing the executive order at the White House, bluntly said the plan “reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban.”
“The federal government has kept 94% of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production, and when they say closed, they mean closed,” Trump said, adding that Obama’s actions “deprived our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs.”
Trump’s order charges the Interior Department to work with the Commerce Department to “streamline a permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday; that data helps the department assess the level of natural resources under the sea.
In turn, the Commerce Department will conduct a review of designations and expansions of national marine sanctuaries within 180 days and of all designations and expansions under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law that gives the President the power to designate land for federal protection.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration ordered a review of federal protected lands, including a number of ocean national monuments.
The order is Trump’s 30th in his first 99 days in office, meaning the President who once decried Obama’s use of executive orders has signed more in the first 100 days than any president in the last 72 years, dating all the way back to former President Harry Truman.
Zinke said he believes that reducing regulations, in combination with the President’s March 28 order on energy independence, will “put us on track for American energy independence.”
Environmental groups blasted the order.
“With this executive order, the Trump administration is threatening the 1,100 miles of California coastline that the citizens of California own, and that we have fought to protect from special interests,” said Tom Steyer, a top Democratic donor and the president of NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy group. “Going back to a dirty energy model is a huge mistake, and that mistake becomes more obvious every day.”
Zinke said Thursday that the review won’t be limited to drilling for oil or natural gas, but will include an opening for wind energy development, too.
That did not assuage environmentalists.
“No matter how much money it spends or how many lobbyists it places inside the Trump administration, ‘Big Oil’ can never nor will never drown out the voices of millions of Americans across the country who spoke out against dangerous offshore drilling,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
Zinke said he has recently heard concerns about offshore drilling in Santa Barbara, California, and promised that he will listen to local communities when it comes to authorizing drilling.
“That’s a commitment that the President made on the campaign, and another promise he’s fulfilling,” he said.