The announcement came in the form of a “Request for Information,” which kickstarts the process whereby the Administration can offer leases for offshore areas around the country to companies to use for oil and gas exploration and development. This process is known as the 5 Year Program and is typically completed every 5 years. The current 5 Year Program governing offshore leasing was just completed in January of this year and spans from 2017 to 2022. The current plan involved two years of thorough analysis by the U.S. Department of the Interior, thoughtfully gathering comments from citizens, elected officials, businesses, and the military, and evaluating the appropriateness of offshore drilling in certain areas in the context of those opinions. While the Obama Administration had initially proposed opening the Atlantic to offshore drilling in the first draft of the 5 year program, through the process of incorporating input from citizens, businesses, and local governments, it became clear that offshore drilling is not appropriate or desired for the Atlantic coast. As such, the Atlantic was removed from consideration for offshore drilling in the final version of the plan.
Now the Trump Administration is throwing all the work of the past few years out the window and starting over much sooner than historical precedent would suggest. This move is an affront to the efforts of thousands of businesses, 125 local governments, and thousands of citizens who have stood up to reject offshore drilling in favor of our coastal economy and quality of life. While the primary occupant in the White House has changed in the past year, the facts that make offshore drilling a bad deal for the American public have not.
So what happens now? The Request for Information kicks off a 45-day comment period, which will end on August 17, unless the deadline is extended. Please click here to submit your opposition to offshore drilling and seismic blasting in the Atlantic. After the comment period closes and comments are considered, the Administration will publish a Draft Proposed Program, which will set a proposed timeline of specific oil & gas lease sales. After this, they will issue a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and a second-draft version of the 5 Year Program. Several months later, the Proposed Final Program is released along with a Final PEIS. Finally, Congress will review the Proposed Final Program and a Record of Decision will be published. This whole process will take 2 or 3 years. The process is difficult to follow, so please see the diagram below, which I find to be a very handy reference. We are now in the “Pre-lease” portion of the flowchart, at the very upper-left corner. Another resource you may find helpful is the webinar we hosted on this plan, which is embedded below and available here.
We fought President Obama’s dirty, dangerous plans for Atlantic offshore drilling and won. We will also fight President Trump’s moves to fly in the face of coastal communities and threaten our shores, economy, and quality of life.