US to lift ban on offshore drilling

Washington: US President Donald Trump’s administration has announced plans to roll back a ban on new offshore drilling off the coasts of Florida and California and was considering over 40 sites for leasing of natural gas and oil production, the media reported.

Thursday’s proposal comes just after the Interior Department issued a stop-work order on a National Academy of Sciences study reviewing the offshore oil and gas operations inspection program to enhance safety, reports CNN.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that 47 proposed leasing areas could increase federal revenue by $15 billion.

“It’s better to produce energy here and never be held hostage by foreign enemy needs,” Zinke said, adding it was a “clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance”.

The five-year proposal would increase drilling sites off the coasts of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico and it would reinstate leasing sites in Pacific and Atlantic waters.

The announcement was met with immediate concern from environmental groups and from Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, who released a statement asking to have waters off Florida’s coastline removed from consideration, reports CNN.

Zinke, however, said the proposal would not move forward without state, community and congressional feedback, but refused to say that states would have the power to veto drilling off their own shores.

“Certainly states and local communities have a voice, and Scott’s been a great governor,” Zinke said. “This is what’s available. We’re going to listen to the voices of all the stakeholders… This is going to be a dialogue of states and Interior and all the stakeholders.”

Lawmakers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania voiced concerns about the effects on tourism and coastal economies.

More than 140 municipalities have publicly opposed offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic, according to the environmental group Oceana.

Environmental groups call the plan “dirty” and “dangerous”.

The US Chamber of Commerce praised the move in a statement, saying it “would help cement America’s role as an energy superpower, creating jobs and contributing to our economy.

“For decades, our nation has needlessly limited our own ability to harness oil and gas resources. This new plan sets a much different course.”

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