President Trump Orders Reversal of Ocean Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contacts:
Jennifer Witherspoon: (202) 772-0369, jwitherspoon@defenders.org
Catalina Tresky: (202) 772-0253, ctresky@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2017) – Today, President Trump signed an executive order targeting Obama administration protections from expanded offshore drilling for the Atlantic coast and Arctic Ocean. The order rescinds President Obama’s withdrawals of Arctic and Atlantic Ocean waters from oil and gas leasing, and requires Interior Secretary Zinke to revisit the entire federal offshore leasing plan which puts areas kept out of the existing plan at risk for potential development.

Additionally, the order gives Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross 180 days to review national marine sanctuaries and monuments designated or expanded in the last decade by the Bush and Obama administrations. It further threatens to roll back protections for our oceans and marine wildlife by reconsidering several oil and gas regulations.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

"This executive order is another effort to benefit big polluters at the expense of our natural heritage.  It puts a target on marine wildlife, coastal communities and important tourism economies exposing more of them to the prospect of development and catastrophic oil spills. There are just some messes like Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez that are too big to clean up and that have long lasting impacts on coastal communities and marine life. The attempt to revoke President Obama’s withdrawal of certain Arctic and Atlantic waters from development is manifestly illegal.

"The seismic testing that the Executive Order tries to fast track has devastating impacts on marine life particularly dolphins, porpoises and whales that use sonar to communicate and hunt for food. In a time when climate change already threatens the future of iconic species like the polar bear and walrus, vital ocean habitats and public lands in the Outer Continental Shelf should remain protected and clean energy solutions should be prioritized over the hunt for dirty fossil fuels in pristine waters."

"This entire Executive Order is aimed at increasing the industrialization of our oceans and drags us backward to the outdated notion that short-lived profit for a few is worth spoiling and plundering our shared natural heritage."

Background:

In November 2016, the Obama administration excluded the Arctic Ocean from offshore leasing plans through 2022. In Dec. 2016, President Obama invoked a 1953 law to permanently ban offshore drilling in large areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Trump's executive order could rescind President Obama’s withdrawal of Arctic and Atlantic waters, and instructs the Department of Interior to review the various ways it could take down barriers to drilling, including revising Obama's 2017-2022 offshore leasing schedule to include sales in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The new order also includes a review of safety regulations put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and rules for drilling in the Arctic. Per media reports, changes to the lease sales and regulations could prompt a regulatory process (including a public comment period), which could be litigated.

In addition, the executive order instructs the Secretary of Commerce to reconsider all Marine National Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries designated or expanded within the last ten years. This review would include Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic, which protect some of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems on Earth. The order further bars the Secretary of Commerce from designating or expanding any sanctuaries without a full assessment of their resource extraction potential.

The order also directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reconsider its policy protecting marine mammals such as whales and dolphins from the dangerous impacts of seismic testing along with a review of other protective rules.


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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.