Did Obama Just Signal That He’ll Open the Atlantic Coast to Drilling?

The Scarabeo-9 drilling rig, owned by the Spanish company Repsol, started deepwater drilling off the coast of Cuba in January.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Ben Geman
July 18, 2014, 10:14 a.m.

The In­teri­or De­part­ment said Fri­day that it will al­low com­pan­ies to use seis­mic air guns and oth­er meth­ods to gauge oil-and-gas re­sources un­der­ly­ing At­lantic Coast wa­ters.

The de­part­ment’s Bur­eau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment fi­nal­ized a plan that lays out a series of en­vir­on­ment­al re­stric­tions—aimed at pro­tect­ing mar­ine life, such as whales, dol­phins, and sea turtles—for com­pan­ies seek­ing to look for oil in mid- and South At­lantic wa­ters. A num­ber of com­pan­ies have ap­plied for per­mits for test­ing that would up­date old es­tim­ates of oil and gas un­der­ly­ing the wa­ters that have long been off-lim­its to drilling.

The plan is a blow to en­vir­on­ment­al­ists who say that the un­der­wa­ter blasts will wreak hav­oc. “Im­pacts to mar­ine mam­mals could in­clude everything from tem­por­ary or per­man­ent hear­ing loss, to dis­rup­tion of vi­tal be­ha­vi­ors like com­mu­nic­at­ing, feed­ing, mat­ing, calv­ing, and mi­grat­ing, [as well as] mask­ing of bio­lo­gic­ally im­port­ant sounds,” said Claire Dou­glass of the group Oceana.

In­teri­or’s Bur­eau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment de­fen­ded the seis­mic-test­ing de­cision, and a seni­or of­fi­cial said test­ing may be­gin as soon as early next year. Fri­day’s de­cision doesn’t ap­prove any per­mits but rather sets out a frame­work for how In­teri­or will gov­ern the pro­cess.

“The [Bur­eau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment] de­cision re­flects a care­fully ana­lyzed and bal­anced ap­proach that will al­low us to in­crease our un­der­stand­ing of po­ten­tial off­shore re­sources while pro­tect­ing the hu­man, mar­ine, and coastal en­vir­on­ments,” said Wal­ter D. Cruick­shank, act­ing head of the agency.

Op­pon­ents of oil-and-gas de­vel­op­ment fear that the plan is a step to­ward al­low­ing com­pan­ies to start drilling off the At­lantic Coast.

Sen. Bill Nel­son, a Flor­ida Demo­crat, said he’s pre­par­ing a let­ter to the White House with some oth­er Flor­ida law­makers that calls the seis­mic test­ing plan “the first ma­jor step to­ward open­ing the At­lantic Ocean to off­shore drilling.” The let­ter also calls the test­ing dan­ger­ous to mar­ine mam­mals and fish­er­ies. Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ed­ward Mar­key of Mas­sachu­setts had a sim­il­ar re­ac­tion.

But while the frame­work an­nounced Fri­day paves the way for new test­ing, Cruick­shank in­sisted that it does not tele­graph a fu­ture de­cision to open up the At­lantic Coast to drilling. In­teri­or is in the early stages of craft­ing its 2017-22 off­shore lease sale plan.

In 2010 Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced plans to lease drilling blocs off the mid- and South At­lantic coast in the 2012-17 off­shore pro­gram, but backed off after the BP oil spill. The oil in­dustry is lob­by­ing for ac­cess to the re­gion in the 2017-22 plan that’s un­der de­vel­op­ment.

Oil-in­dustry groups wel­come the chance to con­duct seis­mic test­ing but said they fear the pro­cess will be too re­strict­ive. “We re­main con­cerned this pro­cess will be hindered by un­ne­ces­sary hurdles lack­ing sci­entif­ic jus­ti­fic­a­tion,” said Jeff Vorber­ger, a seni­or of­fi­cial with the Na­tion­al Ocean In­dus­tries As­so­ci­ation.

What We're Following See More »
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
1 days ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
1 days ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
BRITISH PUBLICIST CONNECTED TO TRUMP TOWER MEETING
Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Source:
SPEAKING ON RUSSIAN STATE TV
Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Source:
“BLOWING A SURE THING”
Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login