Alaska: Senators move to revoke Obama’s offshore drilling ban

Alaska-based senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have introduced an act aimed at repealing offshore drilling bans the Obama administration put in place in its final days at the White House.

The two senators’ act named the Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Alaska Act of 2017 (OPENS Alaska Act), aims, according to them, to provide for lease sales in the Arctic OCS, and ensure Alaska receives a fair share of the revenues from oil and gas development off its coast.

“After years of regulatory restrictions and burdens imposed by the Obama administration, this bill charts a much better course for responsible energy production in our Beaufort and Chukchi seas that actually reflects the views of the vast majority of Alaskans,” Murkowski said. “These areas contain prolific resources that can be safely developed to create jobs, reduce our deficits, keep energy affordable, and strengthen national security. I look forward to working with Alaskans and my colleagues to advance this bill through the Senate.”

“The Obama administration tried to kill responsible resource development in the Arctic, ignoring the fact that the rush to the Arctic is on,” Sullivan said. “Oil and gas will be developed in the region—whether by our nation or others. It is imperative that exploration and development occur with all of the safeguards required by the United States to protect the environment and the people who live in the region.”

According to the Department of the Interior, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas form one of the most prospective basins in the world. Together, these areas are estimated to hold 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough oil and gas to meet all of California’s energy demands for 37.5 years and 43.5 years, respectively.

“The Senators believe the Trump administration has all the authority it needs to revoke President Obama’s unpopular, economically-damaging, and last-minute 12(a) withdrawals, but introduced legislation to set a marker that reflects the views of the vast majority of Alaskans. The OPENS Alaska Act will increase access to the Arctic OCS by requiring a minimum of three lease sales in each of the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Cook Inlet planning areas during any five-year period, as well as annual lease sales in the 8(g) zone of the Beaufort and Cook Inlet planning areas. The bill also provides revenue sharing for the state, coastal communities, and a tribal resilience fund,” reads a statement by the Alaska Senators.

The Obama administration in November 2016 removed the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, offshore Alaska, from the proposed 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas lease sale program. He then in mid-December blocked parts of the Bering Sea from any future drilling, via an executive order delineating a part of the Bering Sea as the “Northern Bering Sea Climate Resiliance Area.”

A few days later, the Obama administration made 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast and 115 million acres in the U.S. Arctic Ocean be unavailable for oil and gas companies.

Including previous presidential withdrawals, the action made nearly 125 million acres in the offshore Arctic unavailable for oil and gas exploration.

However, if a recent report by Bloomberg is to be believed, a lot is expected to change in the U.S. offshore drilling space, and “soon.”

Namely, the business newspaper on Friday reported that the U.S. President might issue an executive order to reverse Obama administration policies that restrict offshore drilling in the U.S.

Bloomberg said this info had been shared by the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who at an industry conference reportedly said the executive order would be issued “soon.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff