Interior opens up offshore drilling, Inslee plans fight

— U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the next step for responsibly developing the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.

Interior proposes to make more than 90 percent of the total outer shelf acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for exploration and development.

By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the shelf off limits. In addition, the program proposes the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history.

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the outer continental shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, California Governor Jerry Brown and Oregon Governor Kate Brown are opposed to this action.

“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California — from Republicans and Democrats alike,” they said in a joint statement.

Of the members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, 155 sent letters to Zinke supporting a new plan recognizing America’s potential for energy dominance.

The Draft Proposed Program includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas — 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and 9 in the Atlantic region, the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the program’s 5-year lease schedule.

“By proposing to open up nearly the entire shelf for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” Vincent DeVito, Counselor for Energy Policy at Interior, said. “This decision could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”

The governors said Interior has chosen to forget the “... utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries.”


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