OIL AND GAS

Trump order could expand drilling, roll back sanctuaries

President Trump tomorrow will call for sweeping reviews of recent federal offshore energy development and conservation policies, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said tonight at a White House briefing.

The reviews, to be led by Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, will be required by an executive order targeting offshore oil and gas leasing plans, regulations and permitting standards put in place by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill as well as marine sanctuaries and monuments created by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.

"One thing that does not change between administrations is a commitment to safety," Zinke told reporters. "Good stewardship of our lands and waters and responsible offshore development are not mutually exclusive."

The executive order also will seek to reverse a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in most Arctic waters and portions of the Atlantic Ocean that Obama put in place under a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. But it is unclear whether Trump has the authority to undo those leasing withdrawals (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016).

Zinke emphasized that the order won't immediately open up any areas of the outer continental shelf to drilling. But it will set in motion a two-year public process to reconsider which areas are suitable for leasing for oil, gas and wind development as part of a new five-year plan. The review will tackle lease planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Arctic.

Zinke said the administration had not heard any oil companies express interest in Arctic drilling and that he wasn't sure how the plan would take into account melting Arctic ice.

"I have not thought about climate change," Zinke said. "I'm sure we'll look at that."

Zinke and Ross will work together to streamline the seismic surveying process, which will include a review of Commerce guidance on minimizing harm to whales and other marine mammals.

Ross also will be instructed to reconsider within 180 days all protected marine areas created within the past decade. Zinke said the process would be similar to the review of national monuments that Trump directed the Interior secretary to undertake earlier this week (Greenwire, April 25).

The order also will call for Interior to reconsider blowout preventer regulations, the well control rule and Arctic drilling requirements.

Reporter Emily Yehle contributed.

Twitter: @corbinhiar Email: chiar@eenews.net

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