The bill from senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan will, effectively, undo the Obama administration’s decision to pull out of sections of the Outer Continental Shelf from the American offshore drilling program. As part of the federal five-year drilling plans, the new bill will also require a minimum of three drilling lease sales in each of the Beaufort, Chukchi Inlet planning areas off of Alaska’s northern coast.
Murkowski, who is the chair of the US Energy and Natural Resources Committee, comments, “After years of regulatory restrictions and burdens imposed by the Obama administration, this bill charts a much better course for responsible energy production in our Beaufort and Chukchi seas that actually reflects the views of the vast majority of Alaskans. These areas contain prolific resources that can be safely developed to create jobs, reduce our deficits, keep energy affordable and strengthen national security.”
You may recall that back in December, Obama officially and formally removed waters in the Chukchi Sea—and most of the Beaufort Sea—from the federal drilling program. It was only one month after finalizing that five year drilling plan that did not include the sale of Arctic leases.
At the time, of course, environmental groups praised the decision as a massive victory in the fight to cut back on Arctic drilling.
This move from Trump, then, could easily benefit energy companies who are now focusing much of their US offshore drilling efforts on the Gulf of Mexico. This includes the Royal Dutch Shell company, Chevron Corporation, Statoil, and Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Now, the Trump administration’s plan is going to find some serious pushback. Obama’s earlier decision removed approximately 125 million acres in the Arctic as well as another 4 million acres across the Atlantic Ocean from all future oil and gas leasing. The formalizing of these withdrawals came from the invocation of an obscure provision within a law from 1953 that does not give explicit power to the president to reverse previous designations.
In defense of the revocation, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Niel Lawrence, shares, “The administration can stare all day at the statute Obama used to protect large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic, but they won’t find a syllable allowing Trump to revoke those protections.”