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Update: February 13, 2018

Both officials and residents of California have come out in droves to push back against Zinke’s draft of the Offshore Oil Drilling Program. Protests have spanned the length of California, involving thousands of people. The protest in Sacramento preceded a Federal “open house,” which many are calling a peace offering for the lack of public input on the program’s draft. California may have found other avenues to block the ruling and set the stage for other states to follow suit. The land commission has stated that it will not issue infrastructure permits, and the California Coastal Commission, which has the authority to review offshore oil and gas activities, has publically announced its opposition.


Draft Proposed National Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program
Announced by the Department of the Interior on January 4, 2018

Summary

In an announcement last week, DOI Secretary Zinke announced the Draft Proposal Program (DPP) of the National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil & Gas Leasing for 2019-2024. This five-year lease schedule opens the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history. Where previously 94% of the OCS has been protected, this plan makes 90% of total acreage available for leasing and 98% of the undiscovered area available as well. (Undiscovered are areas where oil is assumed but has not been proven.) There are 47 sites proposed for auction in that 5-year time frame, with 19 off the Alaskan coast, 7 Pacific, 12 Gulf Coast and 9 Atlantic. Many of these areas have either never been available or have been banned for upwards of 30 years. Some areas are a direct repeal of an Obama Era ban enacted after the 2011 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, which killed 11 people and caused the worst spill in American history. But Zinke has already repealed the rig and drilling regulations that contributed to this disaster.

Secretary Zinke sites this DPP as a move toward “energy dominance,” rather than the existing “energy weakness.” In his announcement, he stated that the funds that would come from this drilling would help with conservation efforts and coast revitalization. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), offshore oil drilling is responsible for 18% of domestic oil production, as well as thousands of jobs, and the expansion of this program would increase domestic energy efforts.

The road to DPP approval is a long one, with time for public comment, a Note of Intent and an Environmental Impact study and statement, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. And while many members of Congress showed support for the measure earlier in 2017, many others are openly opposing the DPP, opening it up for possible Congressional Review. There are also many at least 12 governors, attorney generals, and 64 environmental agencies in opposition and seeking legal action.

Analysis

A few months after opening national landmarks for commerce and drilling, Zinke has moved to make the OCS available as well. One leader in the industry made a familiar argument when he said that the land is “taxpayer owned and should be made available [to the people].” However, Zinke is already wavering. In a meeting with Florida Governor Scott that, to many, stinks of political favoritism, the Secretary announced that waters off the coast of Florida would be exempt from the DPP and the sites would not be made available for auction. Citing Governor Scott’s points for exemption, the California Attorney General said, “California is also ‘unique’ and our ‘coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.’ Our ‘local and state voice’ is firmly opposed to any offshore drilling. If that is your standard, then we too should be removed from your list. Immediately.”

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact megan@usresistnews.org.


 

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