Adding to his list of accomplishments on the eve of his 100th day as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday undoing Barack Obama’s restrictions on drilling in federally held waters along the eastern seaboard and the Arctic.
The “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” aims to clear the path for offshore drilling in millions of acres of federal waters for oil and gas leasing — areas Obama had attempted to protect in the waning days of his presidency.
“Today, we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony.
Those jobs, however, may not actually materialize — at least not anytime soon. The global oil market is glutted, with oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, which means oil companies have little incentive to invest in costly offshore oil drilling that risks the cost — both in dollars and damage to reputation — of spills.
“You don’t create jobs by signing a piece of paper if those jobs rely on a combination of economics and technology that the president doesn’t control,” Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, told the New York Times.
Nevertheless, the oil industry is praising the order.
Industry officials say that in order to make drilling more appealing in the Arctic, regulatory changes would need to be paired with new federal leases, according to the Washington Post. Without additional action from Congress, those regulations will stay in place.
The process of putting federal lands up for auction to oil and gas companies could take two years, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters Thursday. Environmental groups are already saying the order is illegal, and it’s almost certain it will be challenged in court, like several other orders Trump has signed.
Local groups are expected to oppose the order as well. Businesses along the East Coast have expressed concern that drilling could negatively affect tourism, thereby eliminating more jobs than it might create. According to the environmental advocacy group Oceana, more than 120 East Coast municipalities and 3,500 local business are in opposition to new drilling along the Atlantic coast.
Trump signed an executive order in March rolling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have closed coal-fired power plants and promoted clean energy. Trump touted the order as a big jobs creator in coal country, even as the head of the country’s largest private coal-mining company said Trump “can’t bring [jobs] back.”