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Oil Industry Faces Off Against Green Coalition Over Offshore Drilling

Advocates for oil and gas are pressuring the Obama administration to maximize the number of permits granted for offshore drilling through 2022, The Hill reports.

Industry advocates have formed a large coalition comprised of the American Petroleum Institute, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and the U.S. Oil & Gas Association, in order to effectively communicate that safety precautions have dramatically improved since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

“Immediately after the Macondo incident, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry launched a comprehensive review of offshore safety measures and operations to identify potential improvements in spill prevention, intervention, and response capabilities,” they said.

As a result, the coalition argues that the Interior Department shouldn’t consider any areas off limits when granting permits for drilling. “Decisions on areas to include in the 2017-2022 [outer continental shelf] leasing program will have impacts well into the future,” the coalition wrote in the public comments to the Interior Department. “Therefore, we believe that BOEM should fully consider all areas for inclusion in the program and keep as many areas as feasible in the draft proposed program.”

Without access to offshore areas, drilling companies are unable to know the potential resources that can be tapped, which may lead to a decline in U.S. energy security. Shell added that more extensive drilling permits should be considered compensation for years of overly restrictive policies in how permits are granted.

“The fact of the matter is that only 1.9 percent of the outer continental shelf is under lease for oil and gas. That means we’re not looking at 98 percent of it, and that’s according to the Interior Department’s own numbers. We need to get back to development, and so I think the calls for increase access would be good for everyone,” Dan Kish, senior VP of policy at the Institute for Energy Research, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Despite the occasional accidents like the Gulf of Mexico, the history of oil and gas development in the United States has been very, very safe, and we do it better than anyone else in the world. We’ve pioneered it. If they can have offshore leasing in all of Europe, including Norway and the United Kingdom, and operate safely, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do so at home,” he added.

In response, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have formed a green coalition to combat the narrative put forward by the oil coalition. The green coalition holds that new permits would lead to more drilling, which in turn would violate the priorities of the Obama administration, due to the inevitable surge in greenhouse gas emissions.

“New offshore drilling and leasing in those areas would threaten billion dollar coastal economies, would open fragile and priceless coastal ecosystems to damage from pollution and spills, and would accelerate global climate disruption,” the green coalition wrote.

Shawn Regan, research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, was more concerned with the comparative level of risk between offshore and onshore development.

“Regulatory policies that restrict onshore oil and gas development are increasingly pushing energy companies to explore offshore options, which can often come with greater environmental risks,” Regan told The Daily Caller News Foundation. On federal lands in particular, regulatory obstacles and ‘not-in-my-backyard’ policies have made it difficult to tap onshore resources, contributing to a decline in fossil fuel production from federal lands over the past decade. The latest data from the Energy Information Agency reveals a 21 percent decline in fossil fuel production from federal lands generally since 2003.”

The tension between the coalitions has been escalating since June when the Interior Department received 235,000 comments from both sides after it opened for a period of public feedback.

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