Building on the Trump boom: White House moves to expand offshore drilling in the United States

Federal waters along the California coast may be opened up for the first time in 30 years as President Trump moved to expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans.

Areas where drilling has been blocked for years along the East Coast from Florida to Maine may also be opened up for oil and gas exploration under a new five-year drilling plan announced Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

While a few governors along the East Coast have been in favor of offshore drilling, many were alarmed by the plan and voiced their immediate opposition. Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland demanded their states be removed from consideration under the plan.

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Naturally, Democratic governors on both coasts were critical of the plan with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo describing it as “another federal assault on our environment” and California Gov. Jerry Brown declaring he would  block “this reckless, short-sighted action.”

President Trump indicated that “we are unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”

Responsible development of offshore energy resources would be a boon to the economy and jobs, as well as  providing billions of dollars of funding for conservation along U.S. coastlines, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke explained.

“This is a draft program,” Zinke said in a conference call with reporters, according to AP. “Nothing is final yet, and our department is continuing to engage the American people to get to our final product.”

Private companies would have access to 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves for development in the plan, according to Zinke, noting 47 proposed leases along the coastline from 2019 to 2024. Alaska would see 19 sales, the Gulf of Mexico would have 12, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific, including six off California.

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Atlantic and Pacific drilling were blocked in a five-year plan finalized in 2016 by former President Obama. But the Trump administration is pushing its plan to help the U.S. achieve “energy dominance” in the global market. Increasing drilling rights in federal waters was encouraged by Trump in an executive order issued in April.

Demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2017, during a demonstration and march. Thousands of people gathered across the country to march in protest of President Donald Trump’s environmental policies, which have included rolling back restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The demonstrators sat down for 100 seconds to mark President Trump’s first 100 days in office. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

More than 60 environmental groups joined together to condemn the proposed plan which they insist will unleash “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s oceans and marine life.

“These ocean waters are not President Trump’s personal playground. They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies,” a statement read, signed by leaders of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups.

Another joint statement was issued by Democratic Govs. Jerry Brown of California, Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, according to AP.

“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action,” they said.

Florida’s governor has requested a meeting with Zinke to discuss his concerns over the prosed plan’s effect on his state.

“My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected,” Scott said.

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