President Trump signed an order Friday to kick off the process of undoing former President Obama’s restrictions on offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
In a White House signing ceremony joined by energy industry officials and lawmakers from coastal states, Trump pitched his executive order as a massive job and economy booster.
“We’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs,” Trump said at the ceremony.
He said Obama had closed off 94 percent of the country’s outer continental shelf, which “deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.”“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs and make America more secure and far more energy independent,” he said, calling the order “another historic step toward … a real future with greater prosperity and security for all Americans, which is what we want.”
The order came on Trump’s 99th day in office, during a week in which he signed numerous executive orders. He has now signed more executive orders in his first 100 days than any recent president.
The offshore drilling policy goes further toward fulfilling Trump’s promise to enable the production and use of more domestic energy, with an emphasis on fossil fuels. He promised on the campaign trail repeatedly to unleash the United States’ energy potential.
The order immediately repeals most of Obama’s ban on drilling in large parts of the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, which Obama intended to be indefinite.
It also asks Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise Obama’s plan for offshore drilling rights sales between 2017 and 2022. Zinke is asked specifically to consider drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, which haven’t had new drilling rights sales in years.
Trump is also asking Zinke to consider repealing or changing “burdensome regulations that slow job creation,” including safety rules put in place after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” Trump said at the ceremony.
The oil industry and its allies cheered Trump’s order as a major shift in federal policy toward their priorities.
“We are pleased to see this administration prioritizing responsible U.S. energy development and recognizing the benefits it will bring to American consumers and businesses,” American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said in a statement.
“Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation’s energy future and strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance,” he said.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) welcomed the policy as “a thorough review of the morass of bad policies developed and imposed by the prior administration.”
Environmentalists were joined by leaders, including governors of Democratic coastal states, in blasting the order.
The governors of California, Oregon and Washington called the move shortsighted. The order doesn’t specifically call for Pacific drilling — where there have been no new leases in decades — but doesn’t rule it out.
“We still remember what happened in Santa Barbara in 1969, Port Angeles in 1985, Grays Harbor in 1988 and Coos Bay in 1999. We remember the oil soaked beaches and wildlife and the devastating economic impacts to local communities and the fishing industry,” California Gov. Jerry Brown, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, all Democrats, said in a joint statement.
“Now is not the time to turn back the clock. We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of big oil above our communities and treasured coastline.”