USA: Subcommittee discusses bill to open OCS to offshore drilling

U.S. Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources has held a hearing on a proposed bill that could re-open large areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to offshore o&g drilling.

The Subcommittee said in an announcement on October 11 that the proposed Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act, or ASTRO Act, would seek to improve access to offshore oil and gas resources.

Another goal of the bill is to establish revenue sharing of oil and gas revenues for additional coastal states, namely Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alaska, which would be modeled after the Gulf of Mexico revenue sharing scheme.

ASTRO also attempts to add flexibility to the national oil and gas leasing process by providing the Secretary of the Interior, currently Ryan Zinke, the authority to conduct lease sales in areas excluded from an approved national leasing program.

One of the more prominent parts of the Act would limit the President’s authority to withdraw certain OCS areas from leasing and prohibits the enforcement of the Arctic Rule.

The first part would, in effect, mean that no current or future President of the United States could place restrictions on offshore exploration, as Barack Obama did in 2016.

The prohibition of the Arctic Rule means that none of the additional safety standards and requirements to regulations for exploratory drilling and related operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) seaward of the State of Alaska would be put in place.

The hearing memorandum did state that: “Each of these legislative proposals deserves careful consideration and thoughtful debate as we attempt to resolve these policy challenges.”


Obama ban and Trump’s presidential order

A bill like this is expected from the administration of President Donald Trump since one of his main promises during his presidential campaign was an energy reform and a decrease of U.S. dependency on imported energy.

To put this bill more in perspective, in the 2016 ban, the Obama administration made around 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 unavailable for oil and gas companies.

However, the Obama ban did not affect existing leases and a nearshore area of the Beaufort Sea, totaling about 2.8 million acres.

As a response to that, only a few months after taking office, Trump executed a presidential order of his own. President Trump signed an order relating to offshore energy development which looked to open more areas for offshore oil and gas exploration.

After signing the order, President Trump said: “I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.”