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How Trump could vastly expand offshore drilling

In a newly released five-year plan, the Trump administration has proposed opening up vast new areas to oil and gas exploration, including federal waters off the California coast and off the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine. Amy Harder, who covers energy and climate change issues for Axios, describes what this all means.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Trump administration said today it would allow energy companies to drill for oil in nearly all the waters surrounding the continental United States.

    As William Brangham reports, it’s a big shift to roll back even more of the Obama administration’s environmental policies and to increase U.S. energy production.

  • William Brangham:

    The announcement today made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will now open up roughly 100 million acres of offshore waters to oil exploration.

    These areas had been protected at the very tail end of the Obama administration, and they covered regions in the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. The move was hailed by the energy industry. And it also comes on the heels of another push to roll back some of the safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill seven years ago.

    Amy Harder covers energy and the environment for Axios.

    And you’re here to help us wade through some of this.

    So, for people who don’t follow this that closely, how big of a deal is this?

  • Amy Harder:

    Well, it’s a really beg deal for the amount of the offshore waters that they’re proposing to possibly allow the oil and gas industry to lease. It’s about 90 percent of the offshore waters that the federal government owns.

    And that’s more than any administration since Ronald Reagan. So that’s a very big deal.

    That said, it’s also important to remember and to understand the bureaucratic process that goes into something like this. This is what I would call the opening wager of a very long process.

  • William Brangham:

    Meaning rigs aren’t going to pop up tomorrow.

  • Amy Harder:

    No.

    In fact, talking to the industry about this, it could be at least a decade before something like this, before drilling is actually put in place. The process works as a funnel. The first phase is the widest, and then over a public comment period, it gets narrower. At least, that’s how the law states it.

    So, this is the opening wager. It will take a year or so to go through public comments. And I anticipate that at least some of these leases will be taken off the table.

  • William Brangham:

    So, we know some states love oil drilling, some states hate oil drilling. Does a state have any say in what happens on the waters off their particular shores?

  • Amy Harder:

    Well, that’s what the public comment period is for.

    And so, of course, states like Texas and Louisiana are big fans of it. They get a cut of the revenue, which is helpful. But other states, such as Florida, which is run by Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, who just four days ago dined with the president in Florida, he tweeted out that he’s opposed to this and wants to talk to the interior secretary.

  • William Brangham:

    So, it’s not a bipartisan — I mean, there is bipartisan disagreement on this?

  • Amy Harder:

    Right.

    In fact, this is one of the few energy areas that actually is splitting the Republican Party, which we don’t see on most energy issues. You also saw Senator Marco Rubio, another Republican from Florida, also opposed to drilling off the coast of Florida.

    So I certainly think, of the leases that the administration would be open to taking off the table, again, in this funnel-like process, Florida is a top candidate.

    You also have the Democratic governors across — up and down the West Coast, California, Oregon, Washington, who are also very opposed to this. So I think it will be very difficult. Even if technically and legally the administration can move forward, they still need the buy-in and the cooperation of these state governors.

  • William Brangham:

    This, as we mentioned earlier, is part of a lot of chipping away at different environmental regulations of the Obama administration, the Deepwater Horizon safety regs.

    They just opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Is this just part of the process that the Trump administration is going to do? I think this is one of the things that people have pointed out. The Obama administration did a lot of these things in a non-legislative way, and now the Trump administration can undo them in the same fashion.

  • Amy Harder:

    Right.

    I mean, that’s the plus and minus of doing work by executive action. I mean, we saw this across the board on the energy and climate change agenda. I spend most of my time talking to agencies and less of my time talking to Congress.

    We saw it also play out in the Paris climate deal. Obama went around Congress, because Congress wouldn’t have approved a global treaty on climate change, given the makeup of Congress. So he went around and signed — agreed to it by government — by executive action.

    And so that opened up the door for Trump to reverse course relatively easily. So, I think this is the latest one. Offshore drilling is a little bit more substantive. And, you know, I think people relate to it because it’s right in your backyard. It’s the classic NIMBYism, not in my backyard. And that’s why you’re seeing…

  • William Brangham:

    They love the energy. Don’t want it to be done right by them.

  • Amy Harder:

    Right.

    And I think you’re seeing that with Governor Scott coming out in opposition and Rubio. Those are the two that are jumping out at me as the Republicans that I think will be leading this charge.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Amy Harder of Axios, thank you so much.

  • Amy Harder:

    Thanks for having me.

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