Donald Trump’s first 100 days are up tomorrow and he needs to accomplish something other than appointing a supreme court justice to a stolen seat. Because he can’t get any legislation passed, he’s going to settle for his old fallback: signing an executive order. This time, the order will pave the way for America to “drill baby, drill.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gave reporters a preview of the executive order this evening at the White House. He explained that it will call for a review of the areas of the U.S. where offshore drilling for oil has been banned. According to the Associated Press:
The executive order will reverse part of a December effort by President Barack Obama to deem the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic as indefinitely off limits to oil and gas leasing.
It will also direct Zinke to conduct a review of the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan signed by Obama in November. The plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also blocked the planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, but allowed drilling to go forward in Alaska’s Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.
The order could open to oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades.
According to Interior Department estimates, the areas of the outer continental shelf that it oversees contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. At the moment, 94 percent of that is restricted from drilling.
Along with the risk of a disastrous oil spill, offshore drilling is terrible for marine mammals that rely on sonar for navigation, hunting, communicating, and mating. The seismic tests that are necessary for scouting out new wells essentially cause whales and dolphins to go blind. Furthermore, opening up further opportunities for oil companies to keep us mired in fossil fuels will only prolong our inaction on climate change. Zinke said that concerns for the environment were “valid,” but, you know, not valid enough.
The good news is that like other Trump executive orders this could end up doing nothing but giving his base the illusion that he’s accomplishing something. Zinke admitted that the review process will likely take years. And it’s not clear if Trump is even legally allowed to reverse Obama’s ban on offshore drilling from this past December. “No president has ever acted to reverse an indefinite withdrawal and we believe there is a strong legal basis,” a senior White House official told The Washington Times at the time. “There is no authority for subsequent presidents to un-withdraw.”
Last week, on Earth Day, Trump tweeted: “We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation.” A couple of hours later he came to his senses and clarified, saying, “I am committed to keeping our air and water clean but always remember that economic growth enhances environmental protection.”