Trump Administration Okays Arctic Offshore Drilling Plan
Arctic offshore drilling to restart in late 2017.
In case you missed it, last Wednesday the Trump administration approved the nation’s first Arctic drilling project since Shell’s failed attempt in 2015. Eni US, a branch of the Italian Eni, received the approval for the Arctic offshore drilling plan from The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
According to Reuters the BOEM stated, “We know there are vast oil and gas resources under the Beaufort Sea, and we look forward to working with Eni in their efforts to tap into this energy potential.”
The approval by the BOEM comes months after the White House’s executive order “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” and shows a change in policy from the Obama administration. As Inside Climate News reports Trump’s executive order is part of the administration’s attempts to roll back Obama’s ban on new drilling in Arctic waters. Obama’s ban did not protect the area leased by ENI because ENI’s lease is not new. The Obama ban prohibits any new leases for drilling rights through 2022.
Eni is expected to start drilling four exploratory wells in December of 2017, right before their lease expires at the end of 2017. The operation will start from the gravel island, Spy Island, and would extend six miles out into an area of six foot deep federal waters.
A couple of state permits are still pending from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. However, Reuters reported those state permits are historically generally green lighted once the BOEM okays a plan.
Environmentalists fought the ENI approval and promise to continue to do so. In June, thirteen environmental organizations, including Earthjustice, Greenpeace, WWF and the Sierra Club, sent comments to BOEM about Eni’s proposed plan. Inside Climate News reports the groups said that Eni’s plan failed to adequately assess the extent of environmental harm the project could pose, the likelihood of an oil spill, or how Eni would respond to a large oil spill.
Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, argued “an oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it’d be impossible to clean up… The Trump administration clearly cares only about appeasing oil companies, no matter its legal obligations or the threats to polar bears or our planet.” Monsell said the Center planned to continue to fight the Trump administrations attack on Arctic ecosystems.
If you’re looking for good environmental news read about the nation’s first offshore wind farm which began operation this year.