Atlantic Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration May Soon Be a Reality
Big news today out of the Interior Department: much of the Atlantic coastline from Virginia to South Carolina will soon be opened up for oil and natural gas drilling. In 2010, Interior proposed opening parts of the Virginia coast to drilling, but pulled back after the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
At the recent States and Nation Policy Summit this past December, the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force adopted a resolution calling upon the Obama Administration to expand access to additional offshore resources in its 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and natural gas leasing program by including lease sales in the Western, Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Mid and South Atlantic and off the Alaskan coast.
Opening the Atlantic OCS for energy development will undoubtedly provide a massive economic boon for the region. According to figures from a study released by the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), offshore drilling in the Atlantic could create nearly 280,000 jobs, spur an additional $195 billion in new private investment, contribute up to $24 billion per year to the U.S. economy and generate $51 in new government revenue. Altogether, the Atlantic OCS could produce 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The plan, however, is also expected to block parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off the Alaskan coast from further development. The president also recently announced an initiative to designate more than 12 million acres of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness, granting the region even more protection from energy exploration. Included in the 12 million acres is 1.5 million acres of coastal plains that is likely to have plentiful oil and gas resources. The wilderness designation would have to be approved by Congress.
While not perfect, this is welcomed news and certainly a step in the right direction.