Cunningham Warns Fight ‘Far From Over’ As White House Delays Offshore Drilling Plan

April 25, 2019 by Dan McCue

The Trump administration has indefinitely delayed its controversial plan to expand oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast citing the need to await the outcome of litigation that currently blocks similar drilling in the Arctic.

In March, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason in Alaska reinstated a ban on drilling in the Arctic originally implemented under the Obama administration.

The ruling not only blocked the administration’s plans to open up the area to offshore drilling, it also invalidated an earlier executive order from President Trump overturning an Obama-era ban.

In her ruling, Gleason said the April 2017 executive order signed by Trump revoking the drilling ban “is unlawful, as it exceeded the president’s authority.”

As a result, she said, President Barack Obama’s 2015 and 2016 withdrawal from drilling of about 120 million acres of Arctic Ocean and about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency decided to halt the plan to await the outcome of appeals of Gleason’s ruling.

“By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” Bernhardt told the Journal. “What if you guess wrong? I’m not sure that’s a very satisfactory and responsible use of resources.”

In a statement provided to The Well News, an interior department spokesperson said ” Given the recent court decision, the Department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President.”

Trump’s plan to open virtually the entire U.S. coastline to oil and gas exploration immediately inspired a backlash from elected officials, environmentalists and tourism groups up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

In the face of that opposition, the White House promised state officials in Florida and Maine that their coastlines would be spared the activity.

Officials in the remaining coastal states, who not only opposed any drilling, but also the seismic testing needed to determine where oil deposits are located, accused the administration of picking favorites.

The issue also helped Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat, flip a traditionally Republican district in last year’s midterm elections.

In a statement provided to The Well News, Representative Joe Cunningham said, “I welcome this news from Interior Secretary Bernhardt and the Trump Administration.

“This decision is the result of constant pressure from coastal communities, environmental groups, and elected officials who made it abundantly clear that offshore oil and gas drilling is dangerous, unwanted, and a threat to our economy and way of life,” he said.

But Cunningham also warned that “this fight is far from over.”

“We need legislation to permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling and make sure that no Administration can put our communities at risk,” the congressman said. “Congress must pass my bipartisan legislation, HR 1941: The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, as soon as possible.”

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