The Obama administration announced this week that the United States would abandon its plans for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters, due to strong opposition.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, along with Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, announced on Tuesday the Interior Department’s new offshore Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. The proposal follows “extensive public input” and the Department’s own analysis of scientific data, and only proposed 13 potential lease sales — 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and 3 off the coast of Alaska.
“This is a balanced proposal that protects sensitive resources and supports safe and responsible development of the nation’s domestic energy resources to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Secretary Jewell.
“The proposal focuses potential lease sales in areas with the highest resource potential, greatest industry interest, and established infrastructure. At the same time, the proposal removes other areas from consideration for leasing, and seeks input on measures to further reduce potential impacts to the environment, coastal communities, and competing ocean and coastal uses, such as subsistence activities by Alaska Natives.”
The big news, therefore, was that the Interior Department would not be pursuing plans for oil and gas drilling in American Atlantic waters “due to current market dynamics, strong local opposition, and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean users.”
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” added Jewell. “When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years.”
The report follows a joint statement by US President Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau last week, which announced their principles for Arctic leadership. These principles included a commitment to ensure that any commercial activities that take place in the Arctic will adhere to the highest safety and environmental standards, including national and global climate and environmental goals, in addition to indigenous rights and agreements.
“We know the Arctic is a unique place of critical importance to many – including Alaska Natives who rely on the ocean for subsistence,” added Jewell. “As we put together the final proposal, we want to hear from the public to help determine whether these areas are appropriate for future leasing and how we can protect environmental, cultural and subsistence resources.”
The current series of leases are favored heavily in the Gulf of Mexico, “one of the most productive basins in the world,” according to the Interior Department.