This story has been updated.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump signed an executive order on Friday aimed at lifting restrictions on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts put in place during the final months of the Obama administration.
The order, “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” sets a policy of “to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf,” but does not immediately undo the restrictions Obama put in place.
Trump’s order calls for a review of locations available for oil and gas exploration and certain regulations.
The order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise or begin a new five-year plan for oil and gas development that considers areas the Obama administration placed off-limits. It also encourages the Interior Department and the Department of Commerce to work to expedite the seismic surveying permitting process.
The order also directs the commerce secretary to refrain from designating or expanding any national marine sanctuary and to conduct a review of all designations and expansions of national marine sanctuaries and designated marine national monuments made within the past 10 years.
Offshore drilling opponents begin speaking out Thursday, soon after Zinke announced the order.
“The president’s efforts to benefit energy producers won’t make America great again. It will simply enable corner-cutting and set us up for another havoc-wreaking environmental disaster. But this time it could be along the popular Outer Banks or in remote Barrow, Alaska, where there’s no proven way to remove oil from sea ice,” said Oceana’s Senior Vice President for U.S. Oceans, Jacqueline Savitz. “We need smart, tough standards to ensure that energy companies are not operating out of control. In their absence, America’s future promises more oil spills and industrialized coastlines.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation responded Friday, saying the oil industry does not have a clean track record. “If they drill they will spill,” the federation announced. “The industry wants to drill in one of the most amazing and productive fishing habitats in the world, in very deep water where accidents could have catastrophic effects on our fish and wildlife, beaches, estuaries — and existing coastal communities, businesses and traditions. It’s just not worth the risk.”
American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard welcomed the action. “We are pleased to see this administration prioritizing responsible U.S. energy development and recognizing the benefits it will bring to American consumers and businesses,” the trade association president said in a statement. “Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation’s energy future and strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance.”
The order comes at a time when industry demand for offshore leases is at its lowest in years.