The U.S. Department of Interior has backed away from the proposed sale of offshore exploration acreage on the Mid and South Atlantic area as part of the 2017-2022 lease sale, citing local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses.
According to the statement by the DOI, many factors were considered in the decision to remove this sale from the 2017-2022 program including: “significant potential conflicts with other ocean uses such as the Department of Defense and commercial interests; current market dynamics; limited infrastructure; and opposition from many coastal communities.”
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” said Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior. “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 draft proposed program for the Atlantic had proposed a sale late in the Program at least 50 miles offshore the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in a portion of the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Planning Areas.
The sale late in the program had meant that the lease sale for the area would have been held in 2021.
Interior Department’s proposed lease sale now includes 13 potential lease sales in six planning areas – 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three potential sales off the coast of Alaska. The Proposed Program does not schedule any lease sales in the Mid- and South Atlantic Program Area due to current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses.
The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA)’s President Randall Luthi slammed the “disappointing and mind-boggling” decision by DOI to remove the Atlantic area from the proposed lease sale.
“This is a short-sighted political decision of an administration influenced by the radical and extreme minority devoted to keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The removal is not based upon science or good energy policy, and will certainly inhibit the economic opportunities and energy security of our country.”
“It is difficult to put into words how wrong and anti-energy this decision is. By not taking the long-term view, the administration sells U.S. consumers short. Instead, they have determined they are content to let the rest of world lead in Atlantic offshore oil and natural gas development. This is the wrong direction in efforts to continue the U.S. march towards energy independence.
If it works in the GoM…
He added: “Contrary to the alarmist and scientifically inaccurate rhetoric of anti-fossil fuel groups, the fact remains that offshore oil and gas operations are conducted safely around the world on a daily basis, while technology and safety measures continually advance. Moreover, experience has shown that offshore development does not conflict with, but rather complements, rich tourism and fishing industries. For decades, these industries have coexisted and thrived in the Gulf of Mexico. There was no valid reason to think the Atlantic would be any different.”
He said that the true extent of oil and natural gas resources in the Atlantic is still not know, and the removal from the proposed lease sale will not help evaluating those resources.
“To remove the area from further evaluation keeps American citizens in the dark about what resources might be there. A more prudent decision by the Administration would have been to continue a thoughtful conversation with the American public, rather than turning on their heels and walking away,” Luth said.
Obama never intended to allow drilling in the Atlantic
Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle said: “The president didn’t reverse course on his offshore plan because he never intended to allow energy production off the Atlantic coast. This administration’s energy agenda centers on blocking access to America’s most viable natural resources, so the fact that he’s pulling these offshore lease sales shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, offshore energy production has already fallen under this administration and there’s no reason to believe that would change now. In their own existing five-year plan, the administration has canceled over half the acreage they promised. Cutting off these resources deprives the American people of jobs, higher wages, and a stronger economy. This would have the harshest impact on the poor and middle class, who would benefit most from greater access to affordable, reliable energy.
He added: “The president was wrong when he claimed we couldn’t drill our way to lower gas prices, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking credit for the low gas prices that Americans are currently enjoying. The president takes credit for low prices and increased energy production when it benefits him politically, but any suggestion that he is encouraging energy development is laughable. The truth is, President Obama has been a constant impediment to responsible energy production in this country, and his offshore leasing plan is no different.”
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, cheered the removal of the Atlantic Ocean lease sale program, which they say protects the Jersey Shore from “the threat of a massive spill that could cripple the coastal environment and economy.”
“Today’s announcement is a victory for our economy, our environment and the overall well-being of our shore communities,” said Sen. Menendez. “I’m pleased the Administration heard our voices and put the values of New Jerseyans ahead of the financial interests of the oil industry. Standing together, we proved we can beat Big Oil and protect our Jersey Shore for generations to come.”
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) March 15, 2016
“Today marks a huge win for our environment, our economy and most importantly the people of New Jersey,” said Sen. Booker. “I’ve been proud to stand with my colleagues and fellow stakeholders in opposing offshore drilling in the Atlantic ever since it was first included in this proposal. We fought hard to protect the Jersey Shore from the potential devastating effects of a catastrophic oil spill and New Jerseyans’ voices were heard loud and clear – this is our shoreline and we stand united in protecting it from any and all threats.”
“I’m pleased the Interior Department abandoned its shortsighted drilling proposal that threatened the ecology and economy of the Atlantic coast, including our New Jersey coastline,” Sen. Pallone said. “Today’s result would not have been possible without lawmakers and concerned residents standing united in opposition to this proposal. We need to continue to reject efforts to drill along our coastline, and to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy sources along our coast.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff