In this July 16, 2017 photo, ice is broken up by the passing of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sails through the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska. The Trump administration is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked drilling off Alaska. President Donald Trump has pushed to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. But a federal judge last month ruled against Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic. Coastal states also have opposed the expanded drilling. (David Goldman | Associated Press File)

In this July 16, 2017 photo, ice is broken up by the passing of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sails through the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska. The Trump administration is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked drilling off Alaska. President Donald Trump has pushed to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. But a federal judge last month ruled against Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic. Coastal states also have opposed the expanded drilling. (David Goldman | Associated Press File)

Trump administration reevaluating offshore drilling plans

Court ruling blocked oil and gas development off Alaska

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday it is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked oil and gas development off Alaska and parts of the Atlantic.

Governors and lawmakers from both Republican- and Democratic-led states have strongly opposed the expanded drilling. And a federal judge last month ruled against President Donald Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas development, saying Trump had exceeded his authority.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the legal challenges may be “discombobulating” to the administration’s overall drilling plans. Bernhardt says the administration may have to wait for the challenges to fully play out in court.

Interior spokeswoman Molly Block said that given the court setback, the agency “is evaluating all of its options.”

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “will carefully consider all public input received, including comments from governors of affected states, before making final decisions” on expanded drilling off the country’s coasts, Block added.

Environmental groups welcomed what they said amounted to a delay in the administration’s coastal drilling expansion plans. Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation said the administration “needs to go one step further and fully and permanently scrap its plan to open our coasts to unfettered offshore drilling.”

But Randall Luthi, head of the National Ocean Industries Association trade group, urged against a “hard stop” in administration planning on expanded offshore drilling. “What cannot be delayed … is the importance of domestic production to meet the growing demand for affordable, reliable American energy,” he said.

The Trump administration announced a new five-year plan last year that would open up 90 percent of U.S. offshore reserves to development by private companies. Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it would promote responsible energy development, boost jobs and pay for coastal conservation efforts.

The plan calls for expanded drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast and would open up waters off California for the first time in more than three decades. Drilling would be allowed from Florida to Maine in areas that have been blocked for decades.

Industry groups said the plan would encourage economic growth and create thousands of jobs, while environmental groups denounced the plan, saying it would cause severe harm to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.

The plan drew bipartisan criticism in Congress, as lawmakers in coastal states said oil drilling off the coast could put their economy, environment and marine life at risk.

Governors from coastal states asked to be removed from the plan, but Interior officials said they were pressing forward even as they promised to take local concerns into consideration.

Offshore drilling was a key factor as the Senate confirmed Bernhardt as interior chief this month. Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott voted in favor of Bernhardt after receiving assurances from him and other administration officials that Florida would be excluded from drilling proposals. A moratorium on offshore drilling in Florida expires in 2022.

Rubio said in a statement on the day of the vote that he is “confident that when all is said and done the ban on oil drilling off of Florida’s coasts will remain in place.”

Bernhardt has declined to publicly rule out drilling off any state, including Florida.


• This is an Associated Press report by Matthew Daly and Ellen Knickmeyer.


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Aug. 7

Here’s what to expect this week.

From left, Kelsey Dean, watershed scientist with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and Kaagwaan Eesh Manuel Rose-Bell of Keex’ Kwáan watch as crew members set up tools to drag a log into place. Healthy salmon habitat requires woody debris, typically provided by falling branches and trees, which helps create deep salmon pools and varied stream structure. (Courtesy Photos / Mary Catharine Martin)
 
The SalmonState: Bringing the sockeye home

Klawock Indigenous Stewards and partners are working to a once prolific sockeye salmon run.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 11, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police ID man missing from cruise ship

Coast Guard suspends search efforts

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 10, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A northern oriole used dietary carotenoids to make its feathers bright orange. (Courtesy Photo / J. S. Willson)
On the Trails: The colorful world of birds

Colors are produced by cell structure, which can scatter light rays, making… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 9, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Ice fog, a phrase in Russell Tabbert’s Dictionary of Alaskan English, is not uttered in many other places because to form it takes a sustained temperature of minus 35 F. (Courtesy Photo / Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Alaska lexicon sinks in over the years

When my little Ford pickup chugged into Alaska 36 years ago this… Continue reading

Most Read