The Trump administration opens millions of new acres to drilling — and that’s just the start

By Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is aggressively pressing ahead in expanding federal oil and gas industry leases that could lead to more drilling on land and at sea, defying an assessment by scientists in President Donald Trump’s own government that the production and use of fossil fuels is accelerating climate change.

On Friday, the administration announced a final decision to lift protections for a uniquely American bird called the greater sage grouse on nearly 9 million acres to provide more leasing opportunities to oil, gas and mining industries.

A day earlier, an Interior Department assistant secretary confirmed that he told leaders of the fossil fuel industry last month that the Atlantic Coast will almost certainly be included in the administration’s plan to expand federal leasing to nearly the entire outer continental shelf. Offshore leases haven’t been granted in the Atlantic for decades, and drilling hasn’t been allowed for a half century.

Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said the department’s determined effort to approve seismic surveys is a sign that the Eastern Seaboard is in serious play — despite concerns that blasting piercing sounds every 10 seconds for weeks on end pose risks to whales and dolphins, according to conservationists and some scientists.

“I will tell you, we wouldn’t work really, really hard to get seismic permits out if that area wasn’t going to be available,” Balash said during a question-and-answer session following his speech at the International Association of Geophysical Contractors conference in Houston.

In his remarks, Balash said he found it “absolutely thrilling” that Trump’s “knack for keeping the attention of the media and the public focused somewhere else” has allowed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management employees to process the permits without much scrutiny. In an email to The Washington Post …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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