President Donald Trump is considering a delay in the introduction of a plan for the expansion of oil and gas drilling in federal waters until after the 2020 elections, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
A delay would make sense given the opposition that the offshore drilling plan has been attracting from governors and legislators from coastal states, including Republicans. If the five-year offshore lease sale plan is released now and features more acreage to be offered to drillers, the argument goes, Trump will lose votes in next year’s election.
Opening up larger parts of the U.S. continental shelf to oil and gas drilling is a major part of Trump’s energy dominance strategy. Yet it is a lot more controversial among legislators and state governments than Trump’s pipeline plans. Tourism is a crucial industry in many coastal states, and local authorities are worried that drilling would affect their appeal as a tourist destination, not to mention fears of spills among the population; the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is still a fresh memory.
A recent case in point was reported by Politico. The report, published two weeks ago, said the Interior Department has been working on a draft plan for offshore oil and gas drilling in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. Citing sources from the energy industry, the outlet’s reporters noted the area had been included in the acreage to be offered in lease sales under the new five-year lease sale plan by the Interior Department—the one Trump may delay for after the 2020 election. Related: A Wave Of Clean Energy Policies Are Killing Coal
Right now, offshore drilling is against the law in Florida, after the state voted an amendment last year to “ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on lands beneath all state waters.” However, as Florida Politics reported earlier this month, a lobby group called Explore Offshore has been set up by the American Petroleum Institute to pursue the goal of changing attitudes about offshore drilling in the Sunshine State.
Florida is certainly not alone in its negative attitude towards drilling off its coast, even if “There is absolutely no possibility of visual access to any of this activity,” as one executive from Explore Offshore told media. The fear of another environmental catastrophe is significant and it will not be quenched easily, even leaving tourism concerns aside. In fact, with environmental moods what they are, it is questionable if Trump will be able to push the five-year lease plan with more offshore acreage even after he wins a second term in office, if he does.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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