U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “unleashing American energy” on Friday (April 28) as he signed an order calling for a review of offshore areas currently off limits to oil and gas drilling, to determine which might be reopened, in his administration’s latest move to expand domestic energy production.
The order could lead to a reversal of bans on drilling across swathes of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico that former President Barack Obama’s administration sought to protect from development.
Trump had campaigned on a promise to do away with Obama-era environmental protections that he said were hobbling energy development and undermining U.S. national security without providing any tangible benefits, cheering industry but enraging environmental advocates.
The order will also reverse Obama’s move to place parts of the Arctic permanently off-limits to drilling, and encourage more seismic surveying to determine which areas are likely to hold rich reserves of oil and gas.
Weeks before leaving office, Obama banned new oil and gas drilling in federal waters in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, protecting 115 million acres (46.5 million hectares) of federal waters off Alaska and 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic from New England to the Chesapeake Bay.
Environmental groups, including Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity, slammed the new executive order and promised to fight it in court.
They pointed out the order comes seven years after a large oil spill from a British Petroleum platform in the Gulf of Mexico, an event that had led green groups to urge a slowdown in offshore oil development.