U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have introduced legislation to roll back offshore drilling restrictions made in the final weeks of the Obama Administration.
The Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Alaska Act of 2017, or OPENS Alaska Act, would repeal withdrawals from the outer continental shelf in Alaska and the Atlantic Ocean and allow for future lease sales in the Arctic OCS.
The bill also includes provisions for sharing revenues with the state of Alaska.
Although the two senators believe that the Trump Administration could revoke the Obama-era decisions using its executive authority, they filed the bill “to set a marker that reflects the views of the vast majority of Alaskans,” according to an April 7 statement.
Between the November 2016 election and the January 2017 inauguration, the Obama Administration took three major actions related to oil and gas operations in the Arctic.
In late November 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior removed the Alaska Arctic outer continental shelf from the final version of its new five-year OCS oil and gas lease sale plan for 2017 to 2022. In mid-December, President Obama issued an executive order withdrawing parts of the northern Bering Sea from future oil and gas leasing. Shortly before the end of the year, Obama issued another executive order “designating the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing” and taking similar action for a portion of the Atlantic Ocean.
For the last of those orders, Obama used a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 to withdraw the offshore areas from leasing. The language of the act grants broad authority to the executive branch, and experts have since debated whether or not the law allows further administrations to simply “undo” an order passed under the law.
Speaking before the National Ocean Industries Association in early April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that the Trump Administration was working on an executive order that would roll back those Obama-era policies, according to a Bloomberg article.
- ERIC LIDJI