An ongoing partial authorities shutdown poised to enter its fourth week has seemingly stalled President Donald Trump’s controversial efforts to open just about all U.S. waters to grease and gasoline drilling.
Placing the brakes on a much-maligned offshore drilling plan has emerged as a self-defeating byproduct of the president’s shutdown over funding for a wall alongside the U.S. border with Mexico. Whereas consultants largely agree that the shutdown is unlikely to vary the Trump administration’s plans to swiftly roll out its deliberate leasing program in U.S. waters, some say the shutdown has undoubtedly slowed the trouble and allowed drilling opponents to achieve floor.
“What we all know from earlier expertise with the Obama administration and even administrations earlier than that… is that this course of takes some time,” defined Sierra Weaver, a senior lawyer with the Southern Environmental Regulation Middle. “We’d expect a proposed program in about March. However from the place we’re proper now, the shutdown appears to be slowing them down.”
A 12 months in the past, former Inside Secretary Ryan Zinke introduced plans to open up practically all federal waters to drilling together with the whole lot of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. An accompanying five-year leasing plan would public sale off drilling rights in components of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) from 2019 to 2024.
That plan met with heated controversy nearly instantly. All governors on each the East and West Coast introduced their opposition no matter social gathering affiliation aside from Maine’s then-Gov. Paul LePage (R).
Sen. Rick Scott (R), then governor of Florida, additionally sought and was granted an exemption from Zinke, to the consternation of different states like New Jersey; New Jersey has since sued over a Freedom of Data Act (FOIA) request in search of extra details about Florida’s exemption. The state has additionally launched its personal offshore drilling ban.
For months, the Trump administration plan sailed forward regardless of the large pushback and anger from coastal Democrats and Republicans alike. However the shutdown has hit the Bureau of Ocean Power Administration (BOEM) onerous, together with many different U.S. businesses, making it difficult to establish the standing of the OCS plans.
In keeping with the company’s shutdown contingency plan, 84 staff are anticipated to be on-hand to conduct important features, with 76 of these specified for work with the Bureau of Security and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Their work largely offers with pre-existing allowing operations, like the type ongoing within the Gulf of Mexico.
A request for touch upon the standing of the five-year leasing plan from BOEM was met with an automatic response indicating that staff should not responding to e-mail inquiries in the course of the shutdown.
A number of organizations monitoring the OCS developments, together with the Sierra Membership and the Pure Assets Protection Council (NRDC), indicated to ThinkProgress that they believed with so many staff furloughed, work had largely stopped at BOEM.
“They’re not going to have the ability to transfer this as quick as they need,” mentioned Weaver. “Individuals who should be doing the evaluation should not working proper now.”
However that doesn’t imply advocates are essentially respiration a sigh of aid. Drilling opponents largely agree that, wanting the shutdown dragging on for months, it’s unlikely to hinder the Trump administration’s eagerness to open up U.S. waters. Many mentioned that the plan was anticipated previous to the shutdown and that solely last-minute points just like the controversial exemption for Florida have been left to deal with.
Which means when the shutdown ends, a plan is probably going coming.
“When the shutdown started, our expectation was that BOEM may drop its offshore drilling plan any day—one that might threaten all People, not simply coastal residents,” mentioned Alexandra Adams, legislative director for NRDC’s nature program, in an e-mail to ThinkProgress. “We’ll proceed to vigorously oppose that plan.”
Nonetheless, opponents are seizing on the lull. Earlier this week, state legislators throughout the nation introduced a slew of recent payments in coastal states concentrating on offshore drilling efforts. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, and Rhode Island rolled out laws concentrating on drilling infrastructure and in some circumstances in search of an outright ban on the observe.
They have been joined by assist on the nationwide degree, as seven Home Democrats unveiled their very own sequence of payments in search of to crack down on offshore drilling. One invoice, launched by newly-elected South Carolina Democrat Joe Cunningham, would ban the observe within the Atlantic and components of the Gulf of Mexico the place drilling is already going down.
Offshore drilling opponents say the Trump administration ought to take heed of these actions. “What they’re speaking about doing, the biggest opening of U.S. waters to grease and gasoline in U.S. historical past… we’re speaking about one thing that needs to be present process an enormous environmental evaluate,” mentioned Weaver.
Arguing that the “drumbeat of opposition” is barely prone to develop, she pointed particularly to issues in Southern states, the place bipartisan anger over drilling has steadily mounted.
“Within the Southeast, what folks have needed all alongside is for Trump to easily take heed to the coast,” Weaver mentioned. “These are the oldsters who’re impacted and who’ve very clearly from day one mentioned, ‘not on our coast, we don’t need it right here.’”