In an executive order signed Friday, President Trump directed his Secretary of the Interior to review current rules for offshore drilling and exploration. This revision is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections imposed by the previous administration on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic.
According to the Washington Posta rule review will likely make “millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing.”
At the same time, Trump’s executive order instructed the Secretary of Commerce to stop designating new marine reserves or expanding existing ones. According to USA today, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is also “directed to review all designations and extensions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the past 10 years.” The After says this “includes Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts near Massachusetts.”
While these assessments may take some time to complete, they have made an effort to favor extractive industries such as oil and gas extraction. “Today we are unleashing American energy and paving the way for thousands upon thousands of high-paying jobs in the energy sector,” Trump reportedly told the Associated Press.
In December 2016, President Obama declared the US Arctic and Atlantic waters off limits to drilling. He did this with the cooperation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also closed off Canada’s Arctic waters to new drilling contracts. The Obama administration introduced this rule using the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which the administration believed would be more difficult for the Trump administration to overturn than if Obama had simply signed an executive order that it drilling prohibited. The reasoning behind this decision was an interpretation of the 1953 law, which states that the president has the authority to decommission parts of the US seabed, while not giving successors the authority to bring those areas back into use unless it Congress goes back and changes the 1953 law. law.
But even if Trump’s executive order has the intended effect of opening up the seabed to oil and gas drilling, those oil and gas producers may not take up his offer. As oil and gas prices fall, drilling in the technically challenging and frigid waters of the Arctic produces less marginal returns than simpler drilling. According to CNN Money, “Environmental regulations did not cause the downturn in the oil industry. Market forces do. The historic shale oil boom created a massive glut of crude oil, driving prices so low that dozens of companies filed for bankruptcy and about 200,000 workers were laid off.”