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Pentagon Concerned About Gulf Offshore Expansion

Monday, May 14, 2018

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The Pentagon said in a report to Congress Thursday (May 10) that offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would cause problems for necessary military activities carried out in the region. That portion of the Gulf was deemed an “irreplaceable national asset,” according to reports.

Defense Department’s Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin added that any drilling conducted there would have to be placed under significant restrictions to prevent interference with military operations.

Offshore Drilling

Discussion of offshore drilling expansion began in earnest in October 2017, when the U.S. Department of the Interior announced what was projected to be the largest oil and gas lease sale in the country’s history, which included 76.9 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing both praise and concern.

The lease sale took place on March 21 and was slated to include federal waters off of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Touted as the largest lease sale ever, it garnered bids for only about one percent of the 77 million acres on offer in the Gulf of Mexico. The Proposed Lease Sale 250 was the second under the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-22, noted Energy Business Review

Doc Searls, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon said in a report to Congress Thursday (May 10) that offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would cause problems for necessary military activities carried out in the region. That portion of the Gulf was deemed an “irreplaceable national asset,” according to reports.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called for the allowance of new offshore oil and gas drilling in all U.S. coastal waters. This opened billions of acres in oceans from the Arctic to the Atlantic to potential drilling. Zinke supported Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s stance on protecting Florida’s coasts, as they drive much of the state's vital tourism industry. The state is not exempt from drilling, however.

California officials also announced in February that the state would be blocking the transportation of petroleum from new offshore oil rigs, which was intended to counteract more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

Pentagon Predicament

According to The Hill, the Navy and Air Force use the eastern Gulf for laser weapons testing, as well as long-range strike weapons and new vessels, among other purposes. Offshore drilling operations could infringe on these practices.

“Simply stated, if oil and gas development were to extend east of the [Military Mission Line], without sufficient surface limiting stipulations and/or oil and gas activity restrictions mutually agreed by the [Department of Defense] and [Department of the Interior], military flexibility in the region would be lost and test and training activities would be severely affected,” the report said.

This information is likely to add weight to the arguments from Florida leaders, Democrats and others who want to keep offshore drilling out of the eastern Gulf. In this vein, Congress blocked drilling in a stretch of the area slightly longer than what is east of the Military Mission Line. The Trump administration is considering allowing leasing rights in that area in 2023 and 2024, however.

The National Offshore Industries Association argued that the report indicates potential for drilling in areas that had not been available previously. Echoing this sentiment, the American Petroleum Institute noted that federal officials could figure out ways to expand drilling without negatively impacting the military.


Tagged categories: Department of Defense (DOD); Government; Offshore; Oil and Gas; President Trump

Comment from Robert Bullard, (5/14/2018, 9:15 AM)

This same situation may to the development off-shore wind power development, especially as the industry matures to deeper and deeper water operations.

Comment from David Knuckey, (5/14/2018, 9:22 AM)

Why can't the Administration and the DOD get together and discuss these issues before going public? It really makes us look inept in the eyes of the world when things like this happen.

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