The debate is back about offshore oil exploration and drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Georgia coastal area. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday directing the Department of the Interior to look at opening up more areas to offshore drilling.
That’s a reversal from an Obama administration decision not to sell any oil leases in the Atlantic between 2017 and 2022, and to take some areas of the Atlantic and the Arctic off the table completely. Environmentalists supported that move, as did many cities and businesses that rely on tourism.
The oil industry has said it should at least be allowed to search for oil in the Atlantic, in case there's anything there worth drilling for. Now, it may get that chance.
“Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation’s energy future and strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance,” said Jack Gerard, the CEO of the industry group, American Petroleum Institute, in a statement.
Even looking for oil in the ocean is controversial, though, since the seismic tests that companies use could harm marine animals.
“That’s one concern, is an environmental concern, relative to marine life,” said Tybee Island mayor Jason Buelterman. Tybee is one of dozens of municipalities that has passed a resolution against seismic blasting.
Buelterman said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 makes his community wary of drilling.
“You know obviously after what happened with Deepwater Horizon, we would rather not have the potential for that happening here,” he said.
Any drilling would still be a long way off. The executive order begins a process that involves study and public input, and could take years, though it does direct the Department of the Interior to expedite permits for seismic tests.