Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

This One Policy Could Open Up Millions of Acres to New Offshore Oil Drilling

Energy

Despite demand for cleaner sources of energy, the increase in affordable renewable options and the climate agreement reached last year in Paris, the oil industry’s thirst for more is not dead yet—nor is the threat it poses to our coastal waters and communities.

Why open these irreplaceable areas for dirty oil production if renewable energy is already offering viable and sustainable options? Why continue leasing public resources for exploitation if we know that their use would put our communities at extreme risk?

The Deepwater Horizon blowout spewed about 200,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the broken pipeline into the Gulf of Mexico. Six years later, the Obama administration is considering expanding the offshore oil program to the Atlantic. Photo credit: Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

The answer is as frustrating as the questions themselves. Even at a time when oil exploration makes less environmental and economic sense than ever, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)—mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) — is preparing the next Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

In plain English, the Obama administration—the same one that has repeatedly positioned itself as a leader on climate change—is laying out plans to lease offshore oil to the usual suspects like Exxon, Shell, Chevron and others in the coming years.

How Can That Be?

The OCSLA established a program in which the waters of the U.S. outer continental shelf are leased in five year windows, known as the five-year plan. The next five-year window is set to begin in 2017. For it to start on time, the plan has to be delivered by BOEM in 2016.

The western and central Gulf of Mexico has historically been the major region for federal offshore oil, with most of the rest of the outer continental shelf under congressional moratorium. But in 2008, President Bush removed almost all restrictions in the waning hours of his administration.

President Obama put many of those restrictions back in place, but left open the possibility of Arctic, Atlantic and new Gulf lease sales. The tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 compelled President Obama to put a pause on many of these new areas, but now that some time has passed—not that drilling has become any safer—he seems to think it’s ok to re-open the Atlantic to the oil industry.

If you think that sounds contradictory to the president’s lofty rhetoric on climate change in recent months—you’re right. And although President Obama has made some promising moves by protecting all of Bristol Bay, Alaska from leasing and canceling lease sales across the U.S. Arctic, he’s falling short of true climate leadership.

Read page 1

What’s in the Five-Year Program?

A preliminary draft of the five-year program presented last year contained measures fundamentally incompatible with action on climate change. The plans include leasing 90 percent of the U.S. Arctic, including areas that Shell Oil abandoned after millions of people around the world united to stop them. Even though Shell is out, the new plan could reverse this progress and re-open these areas for drilling.

The U.S. Arctic waters of the outer continental shelf, governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act. Photo credit: Offshore Energy Today

As if the Arctic weren’t enough, it would also open the southeast Atlantic coast—untouched for more than three decades—to oil drilling activity off of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

And the Gulf of Mexico would see no reprieve from offshore drilling, even as it is still reeling from the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Proposed Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas for drilling as part of the 2017 five-year plan. Photo credit: SkyTruth

By opening these new areas in the Atlantic to leasing—not to mention leaving the Gulf and the Arctic open to continued exploitation—through the five-year program, the Obama administration is setting the table for the next president to expand oil exploration beyond what we already see today.

That’s not climate leadership and it’s not going to help President Obama further the legacy he’s worked hard to build on climate change.

Fight With Us to Keep It in the Ground—And Underwater

But these potentially devastating plans are far from a done deal.

We have an opportunity to put a stop to this together.

The five-year program is still in draft and in the following weeks, the administration will present a new version and open it for comments. When it does, we need to be loud and clear: keep our fossil fuels in the ground—or in this case, in the seabed.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Want to Get Off the Grid and Live in Harmony With Nature? Build an Earthship

Hottest Year Ever Recorded + Collapsing Oil Prices = Broken Fossil Fuel Economy

Huge Victory for Environmentalists: Offshore Fracking Moratorium Now in Effect Off California’s Coast

Oil Industry Takes Aim at the Atlantic Coast

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems. rez-art / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg

Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.

Read More Show Less
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less

Trending

World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less