October 18, 2017
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last April restarting
the process of awarding offshore energy drilling leases in the Mid- and
South-Atlantic, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that process — with
its multiple reviews and public comment periods — would be a lengthy
a potential game changer has emerged with proposed federal legislation
that could dramatically speed up the timetable for putting oil rigs in
the Atlantic. On Oct. 11, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural
Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a
legislative hearing on a "discussion draft" of the Accessing Strategic
Resources Offshore Act (ASTRO).
bill, which is so new it does not have a number assigned to it, would
streamline and speed up the process for holding offshore drilling lease
sales by amending key provisions in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands
Act (OCSLA) and bestowing greater and less restricted authority upon
the Secretary of the Interior to determine where and when to hold the
this point, few are eager to assess the chances that such a measure
would become law, but early reaction from local opponents of offshore
drilling was sharply critical. Drilling opponents have often cited
concerns ranging from the impact on marine life to the economic fallout
from an oil spill washing up on the beaches of a popular resort area.
Foundation Outer Banks Chapter Co-Chair Matt Walker argued that the
supporters of the bill, “rather than follow the traditional democratic
process that allows states and municipalities to engage in thoughtful
discussion and determine their own futures, [are] seeking to rewrite
the federal rules to subvert the will of the people.”
the Dare Board of Commissioners' numerous resolutions opposing offshore
drilling and seismic testing, Chairman Bob Woodard told the Sentinel,
"I would be highly opposed to any action that takes our position on
this out of the process."
Tucker, communications director for U.S. Representative Walter Jones,
whose district includes Dare County, said “we are at the very beginning
stages of this legislation,” adding that it could undergo significant
changes before getting to the floor of the House. “For that reason, I
think it is too early to comment."
one spokesperson who asked not to be identified cited speculation about
"a possibility the bill could go to the floor and pass the House by the
end of the year.”
its current form, the proposed legislation would authorize the
Secretary of the Interior to conduct lease sales without following any
of the procedures previously established by the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management (BOEM) that called for multiple environmental assessments,
hearings and the finalization of a five year plan.
bill would also establish a revenue sharing structure for the Atlantic
states and Alaska, calling for the states to receive 37.5% of revenues
from offshore oil and gas leasing and development.
During the Oct. 11 committee hearing, almost all the speakers supported the ASTRO bill.
Petroleum Institute official Erik Milito touted the oil industry's
ability to provide jobs and oil. And he asserted that these
contributions could be far greater if development of the 94% of the
Outer Continental Shelf that is currently "off-limits to oil and
natural gas development" were made accessible.
Chairman Paul Gosar, (R-AZ), cited the “millions of direct and indirect
jobs across the country,” as well as the “billions of dollars in
revenues to the government” created by the energy industry. “It is
critical that we maintain and increase access to offshore exploration
and production to improve upon these trends.”
Stephen Goldfinch, a member of the South Carolina State Senate who
represents three coastal counties, hailed the bill as providing "an
opportunity for our state to see much-needed additional economic
improvements, investment and job creation.”
Dare County, there have been a number of public protests and displays
of opposition to offshore energy drilling in recent years. An Aug. 10
meeting in Manteo hosted by the N.C. Department of Environmental
Quality turned out a crowd of more than 120 residents to warn of the
"catastrophic" consequences of offshore energy exploration.
Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Davies told the Sentinel, "My first reaction
to this proposed legislation is disgust,” adding that “taking action on
items of such significance without considering public input is wrong
and is a clear violation of the American Society for Public
Administration's Code of Ethics.”
her part, Diane Hoskins, of the environmental advocacy group Oceana,
asked citizens to contact their representatives in Washington, and
suggested the bill could run into stiff opposition.
understand a few in Congress want to move the bill ahead quickly, but
we intend to help ensure that does not happen,” she said. “We expect
this bill to face difficulties before it reaches the House floor
because offshore drilling proposals face strong bipartisan opposition
Reprinted With Permission By The Outer Banks Sentinel