Energy & Environment

Oil lobby pushes for offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico

The nation’s top oil group wants the Trump administration to allow offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 

Bolstered by last week’s offshore drilling order from President Trump, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said Monday it wants regulators to consider allowing drilling in new tracts of the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico. 

“The eastern Gulf is in close proximity to existing production and infrastructure, and opening it would spur investment and economic activity that could create thousands of jobs and provide billions of dollars in government revenue,” Erik Milito, API’s upstream and industry operations group director, said during a conference call with reporters.


Federal law prohibits oil drilling in the Gulf within 125 miles of the coast of Florida. That moratorium is due to expire in 2022, the same year the federal government is scheduled to finalize a new five-year drilling plan, though Milito said he expects Trump’s Interior Department to release a new drilling blueprint before then. 

Trump’s order, signed Friday, instructs the Interior Department to reconsider the offshore drilling restrictions the Obama administration put in place on Arctic and Atlantic drilling. 

It does not explicitly list the eastern Gulf of Mexico as an area where regulators should consider allowing drilling, but Milito said API hopes the administration will consider the region in its review.

“We’re optimistic — we think that it would be essential, from an energy security standpoint, both for national security reasons and for the continuing demand for oil and gas that we’re going to see for a long time, for Interior to take a serious look at the eastern Gulf of Mexico,” he said. 

Industry groups estimate that offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf could produce up to 1 million barrels of oil a day by 2035. But Congress formally banned drilling near the Florida coast in 2006, and some Democrats have pushed to extend the ban further. 

“Drilling near Florida’s coast poses a direct threat to Florida’s environment and multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), one of the Senate’s most ardent opponents of eastern Gulf drilling, said in a statement last week. 

“Ever since I was a young congressman, I’ve been fighting to keep oil rigs away from Florida’s coast, and I’m not going to stop now.” 

Tags American Petroleum Institute Bill Nelson Gulf of Mexico Offshore drilling

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