It might soon be open season for energy companies with coastal drilling ambitions.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Trump administration wants to undo more Obama administration policies and allow for nearly unlimited exploration of gas and oil off America's coasts. Bloomberg calls the plan "unprecedented in its scope," noting that the Interior Department wants as many as "47 possible auctions of drilling rights in more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf, including Pacific waters near California and Atlantic waters near Maine."
The Interior Department claims its proposal would create jobs and revenue, arguing that there are as much as 3 billion barrels of oil and 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in these waters. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proudly proclaimed, "We're embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America… We are going to become the strongest energy superpower." Zinke did caution, however, that "nothing is final" in this proposal.
The president of the oil industry nonprofit National Ocean Industries Association praised the proposal on Thursday: "Polls have repeatedly shown that most Americans want more energy to be produced domestically, including looking for more oil and natural gas resources off our shores." However, the Post points out that even several allies of President Trump are opposed to offshore drilling in their state, including outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Beyond Florida and New Jersey, drilling could be permitted in controversial areas like California and the Arctic, which is a big worry for environmental groups concerned about the dangers of offshore drilling. The Post notes, however, that the Interior Department recently put the kibosh on a federal study that would examine those exact risks.