FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2017
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke today expressing concerns over President Trump’s executive order instructing DOI to consider new oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling in federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. Trump’s executive order, which he signed on Friday, could open areas of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans where offshore drilling is currently banned.
“This executive order is the latest in a series of ill-advised actions by the Trump Administration that favor corporate interests over the safety of the environment and our communities,” Pallone and Grijalva wrote to Secretary Zinke. “We believe the review of the leasing program lays the groundwork to eventually weaken key safety regulations that help prevent oil spill disasters, while simultaneously introducing drilling to ocean areas currently off-limits. In doing so, this action greatly increases the threat of a devastating oil spill to these critical and irreplaceable marine ecosystems and puts at risk billions of dollars in states’ tourism revenue.”
The two Committee Ranking Members stressed that the executive order overlooks the irrevocable and widespread harm that oil and gas disasters have had on our nation’s rich and productive marine ecosystems. They pointed to the fact that areas currently closed for Atlantic and Arctic drilling serve as habitat to endangered species and major biodiversity hotspots critical to fisheries, tourism and communities that depend on them.
Pallone and Grijalva wrote that before considering opening new areas for develop, DOI should require oil and gas companies to use existing leases and opportunities in areas open to drilling. For example, oil and gas companies hold leases on approximately 16 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, but have developed only about 26 percent of that acreage.
In their letter to Secretary Zinke the Democrats ask for information, documents, and answers to several questions relating to DOI’s review of the offshore leasing plan, including:
· Please provide all risk assessments and analysis undertaken to determine how lifting the ban on drilling in these areas would not adversely affect fragile ecosystems or damage fishing, restaurant, or tourism interests.
· What additional actions or plans does the Department intend to take to protect coastal communities from the possibility of another catastrophic oil spill?
· How would President Trump’s proposed DOI budget cuts affect the ability of the Department to draft a new 5-year plan, while administering an even greater number of oil and gas leases?
A copy of the letter is available here.