The Trump administration is soon to unveil its update of the five-year plan to open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration, but many coastal Republicans don't want it.
America’s Republicans have eagerly lined up behind President Donald Trump's energy agenda to bring back coal, expand mineral extraction on public lands and revive nuclear energy.
But when it comes to the president's proposal to massively expand offshore oil and gas drilling, many GOP leaders in coastal states are pushing back.
South Carolina GOP Governor Henry McMaster and Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp are among a broad bipartisan, bicoastal, anti-drilling set of voices whose opposition could punch a hole in Trump's America-First Offshore Energy Strategy – and muddy an issue that figures to be front-and-center during the 2020 elections.
The Trump administration has consistently argued for expanded offshore drilling, not only to make US energy secure but also to help reinvigorate the manufacturing sector and boost the growth of high-paying jobs.
The initial plan unveiled in January 2018 included 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the nation's 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic region. The plan would apply to federal waters, which begin beyond state waters, generally about three miles from shore.
Republicans have been largely united both on the country's need for energy independence and in condemning the Green New Deal that progressive Democrats rolled out in early February. But with 2010’s BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico still a raw memory, they're fragmented on offshore drilling.
Republicans have joined Democrats in introducing bills, writing letters and making both public and private appeals to the administration, all asking for an exemption for their states like the one then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke granted to Florida's then-Governor Rick Scott a year ago.
But there's little to suggest those efforts will pay off in the coming weeks when the Interior Department releases its update of the five-year plan to open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.
Thousands of coastal businesses have come out strongly against the plan, warning that oil platforms would hurt their communities, jeopardize tourism and shrink their bottom lines. Fishing interests say more drilling would disrupt habitats and threaten marine stocks tied to their livelihoods.
At least three federal agencies have weighed in with concerns: The Department of Defense opposes drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico because it would disrupt training exercises; NASA is concerned oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast and Alaska could interfere with launches; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has raised red flags about drilling's impact on fragile marine stocks.
Environmental groups oppose any expansion of fossil fuels, arguing that increased carbon emissions would exacerbate climate change. The conservation organization Oceana, said the Trump administration's efforts to roll back offshore oil rig safety rules would worsen the risk.
Oil and gas industry groups support the president's call for more drilling because of the economic and national security they say it would provide. Energy exploration sustains hundreds of thousands of jobs, generates billions in economic activity and funnels millions into state government coffers every year, according to the American Petroleum Institute trade group.
The updated version of the administration's offshore drilling plan is scheduled to be released "in the coming weeks," according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Interior Department.