Monuments, sanctuaries, and offshore oil drilling -- an explainer

All these comments on all these actions by the Trump Administration are confusing. Let's break it down.

Oil platforms off the California coast. Photo: Fred Rockwood

This is getting confusing, for sure.

First we were urging the public to speak out in defense of national monuments. Then we needed comments in defense of national marine sanctuaries. Now we’re asking for comments opposed to new offshore oil drilling. Making things more confusing was the fact that the national monuments comments concerned the Antiquities Act, and were directed to the Department of the Interior. But the comments about the marine sanctuaries were also about the Antiquities Act, but were directed to the Department of Commerce. Offshore oil drilling didn’t have anything to do with the Antiquities Act, but were being directed to Interior.

Let me try and parse this out.

The simple way to put this is that the Trump Administration wants to open protected areas to mining, oil drilling, and whatever other resource extraction is available. That’s what all this is about. One need only look at President Trump’s executive orders to understand this.

The review of national monuments is still ongoing, but the public comment period for that has closed. So we can set that aside for now.

In April, President Trump issued an executive order entitled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” in which he called for two things. First, he directed the Department of Commerce, which oversees national marine sanctuaries through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, to review the status of any sanctuaries created or expanded in the last ten years. Second, he directed the Department of Interior to revise the current program for issuing leases for offshore oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The purpose of these actions, the president stated, is that “America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come.”

Both of these processes require public comment, and that’s what’s going on right now.

Audubon California is collecting comments from the public in defense of marine sanctuaries here.

We are collecting comments from the public in opposition to new offshore oil drilling here.

You can review documents related to the marine sanctuaries review, including the federal register notice, here. Information related to the creation of a new five-year program of offshore oil drilling can be found here.

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