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Interior secretary starts process for offshore drilling expansion plan


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke officially began the process Monday to expand offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

At an industry conference in Houston, Zinke signed a secretarial order for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to start formulating a new five-year plan for drilling rights sales.

Following on President Trump’s executive order Friday on the same topic, Zinke is asking BOEM specifically to consider allowing new offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean, the mid- and south-Atlantic Coast and the entire Gulf of Mexico.

{mosads}BOEM is instructed to give expedited consideration of companies’ applications for seismic testing on the outer continental shelf, to study where and how much oil and natural gas exists in those areas.

The agency will also review numerous regulations on the industry, including safety rules instituted after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, for potential changes or repeal.

“You should be excited,” Zinke told the attendees at an event hosted by the industry-based Consumer Energy Alliance during the Offshore Technology Conference.

“If you’re in the oil and gas and energy segment in this society … the stars are lined up,” he said.

“We’re going to make jobs, we’re going to bring the economy ahead.”

He said producing more offshore oil and gas is good for the economy, national security and even the environment, since the United States has strong safeguards for drilling.

“The United States has the most stringent, toughest, best regulatory framework for safety and environmental extraction of our resources in the world, undisputed,” Zinke said.

Former President Barack Obama had left the Arctic and Atlantic out of the five-year lease sale plan for 2017 to 2022. Neither area has had new leases in decades.

BOEM may also consider new Pacific leases, which haven’t been granted in decades either. But California, Oregon and Washington oppose offshore drilling, and neither Trump or Zinke has asked agencies specifically to consider the Pacific.

Obama also didn’t grant seismic testing permits in the Atlantic.

“Why is seismic important? You can’t know what’s there unless you do seismic,” Zinke said.

Another order Zinke signed Monday creates an adviser position to Zinke at Interior to help oversee energy issues across the department’s numerous agencies.

Tags Barack Obama Interior Department Natural gas Offshore drilling oil

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