Major oil group launches new coalition to promote offshore drilling

Major oil group launches new coalition to promote offshore drilling
© Getty

A top U.S. oil and gas industry leader is setting its sights on expanding offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf and off the coast of mid-Atlantic states.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) announced a new coalition Wednesday that aims to spread acceptance of drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Explore Offshore initiative comes at a key time for American energy, as Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program Interior 'disappointed' by billboards protesting uranium drilling in Grand Canyon Court rejects greens’ climate case against federal coal mining MORE is exploring options to expand drilling off coastal U.S. states.

The coalition is led by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and Jim Webb, the former Navy secretary and Virginia Democratic senator.

The main goal of the initiative is to educate states on the benefits that offshore drilling could bring — including more jobs, more state revenue and national economic and security stability.

“In order to responsibly plan for tomorrow we must continue to explore safely and develop oil and natural gas resources today to ensure America’s economic future,” Nicholson said in a phone call with reporters Wednesday.

The coalition is made up of community organizations such as the African American Chamber of Commerce, local leaders and administrations, and others who support increased access to oil and natural gas resources.

Its focus on the Southeast is intentional due to the area’s existing infrastructure and proven track record of high oil reserves.

We are certainly interested in looking throughout the continental shelf — but we made a real priority to expand development in the Eastern Gulf where we have infrastructure in place,” said an API spokesperson. “The mid-Atlantic has been a focus — there’s been success the industry has seen all throughout the Atlantic — there always has been a high level support from Virginia down to Florida.”

Representatives of the group additionally pushed the need for more offshore geological surveys to show just how high the potential is of finding reserves. 

“By permitting seismic survey in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico — the Trump administration can build a long term path to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in a high paying industry, more revenue for the government and more energy security for all us,” said Nicholson.

He added: “Drilling can now be done in a safe manner due to new technology in drilling procedures.”

Zinke first announced the administration was exploring new offshore drilling options in January, but the announcement was largely met with criticism by the leaders of coastal states who feared environmental repercussions and a dent in their tourism industries.

Zinke initially discussed a possible waiver for Florida from the drilling, but has since said that an exemption for that state had not been finalized.

In addition to pushback from state leaders, the Interior Department faces other hurdles in expanding oil and gas production offshore — namely barriers to drilling like a moratorium in the Gulf Coast that stems from the 2010 BP oil spill, and apprehension from oil and gas companies.

It is a much harder endeavor for companies to drill for oil in the ocean than on land — something Zinke said has come up in his meetings with industry groups.