Draft offshore program reflects administration’s zeal for drilling

Jan 4, 2018

Shell's Kulluk drill rig ran aground on New Year's Eve, 2012, ending the company's disastrous year of attempting to drill in the Arctic Ocean.


ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (January 4, 2018) – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management today released a draft of its 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, confirming the Trump administration’s intention to re-open the entire Arctic Ocean and other waters to widespread oil and gas drilling. The Arctic Ocean largely was withdrawn from the offshore leasing program by President Obama. In response, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from licensed engineer and Arctic program director, Lois Epstein:

“Re-doing the five-year program reflects this administration’s eagerness to sellout our public lands and waters and pursue fossil fuel energy development everywhere. This is part of a wholesale assault on Alaska’s Arctic, with Congress opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain to oil drilling and the Trump administration seeking to revise the scientifically sound National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska management plan so it allows drilling even in currently protected, sensitive habitat.

“Also, it is deeply troubling that the Department of the Interior is considering weakening vital safety and environmental protection requirements for well blowout preventers and Arctic drilling standards put in place after the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010. Drilling in the Arctic Ocean is extremely difficult and dangerous, and a major oil spill would pose a grave threat to marine life, sensitive coastal habitat and subsistence resources that are vital to Alaska’s Native communities,” Epstein added.  

“Numerous conservation groups have sued the Trump administration, questioning its authority to undo President Obama’s 2016 withdrawal of much of the Arctic Ocean from America’s offshore drilling program. Ultimately, this issue must be settled by the courts.”


The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org