(CN) - The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is moving to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans, including opening up federal waters off the coast of California for the first time in more than three decades.
The proposal by the Interior Department for a new five-year drilling plan is the latest move by President Donald Trump to remove restrictions that he has said wrongly prevented energy companies from tapping into U.S. resources.
“Previous administrations took 94 percent of the outer continental shelf [energy resources] and made it off limits for energy development,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday.
“Look at the numbers in 2008. It was a banner year. The Interior was the number two revenue generator in this country. We made $18 billion alone in offshore drilling. In 2016 that number dropped to $2.6 billion. We lost $15 billion in revenue a year," Zinke said.
The proposal is sure to provoke strong resistance from states that have historically opposed such drilling, arguing the activity poses a threat to the tourism and commercial fishing industries on which they rely.
Already the nation’s third largest oil-producing state, California officials quickly denounced Trump’s plan Thursday. Prominent politicians and environmental groups said the unprecedented plan to undo Obama-era protections and offer six new leases off California’s coast to oil and gas companies is ripe for disaster.
Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who have bitterly opposed Trump’s effort to repeal clean air and other environmental protections, signaled they will go to court to protect California’s coastal communities and wildlife. Brown said California, Oregon and Washington state would “do whatever it takes” to stop the “reckless, short-sighted action” by Trump.
“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science,” Brown said in a statement.
Becerra painted the Trump administration’s proposal as a “non-starter.”
“Our state has banned offshore drilling for a reason: because we don’t want it and because we know what happens when it goes wrong. We are evaluating all of our options to protect our state’s pristine national resources,” Becerra said in a statement.
But the Interior Department argues not tapping offshore energy resources is simply shortsighted.
According to the Interior Department, an estimated 3 billion barrels of oil lay beneath the coastal waters of the United States, plus 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“Previous administrations took 94 percent of the outer continental shelf [energy resources] and made it off limits for energy development,” Zinke said. “The Interior was the number two revenue generator in this country [in 2008.] We made $18 billion alone in offshore drilling. In 2016 that number dropped to $2.6 billion. We lost $15 billion in revenue a year.”
The proposal lays out a plan for 47 potential lease sales. Of these, 19 areas for lease are located off the Alaska coast, and 12 are in the Gulf of Mexico. The department foresees seven lease sales in the Pacific region, comprised of six off the California coast, and one that will be split between waters off the Washington and Oregon coasts.
There have been no sales in the Pacific Region since 1984.