November 23, 2020

Trump Administration Proposes Changes To Arctic Drilling Rules

On November 19, the Trump administration released a draft regulation that would ease the regulation governing offshore oil drilling in the Arctic. Specifically, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said it would change 29 out of the 65 regulations in the current version of its Arctic Exploratory Drilling Proposed Rule.

The agency noted that the team that proposed the revisions was “made up of career subject matter experts and regulatory specialists” and “looked to additional research in their review, including a BSEE-commissioned Technology Assessment Program study, National Petroleum Council Reports and consultations with leaders of more than 23 Alaska Native tribes, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporations and municipalities throughout Alaska.”

A fact sheet explaining the detailed changes is available here.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes. This timeframe for public comment would not allow the regulation to be finalized during the Trump administration and it is likely that President-elect Joe Biden’s administration would reconsider this rulemaking.

Also last week: as The New York Times reported, the Trump administration announced it will begin the process of leasing drilling rights in a region of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, setting up a potential lease sale just before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Specifically, the Bureau of Land Management posted a “call for nominations” to the Federal Register that requests that oil companies specify which tracts of land in the refuge they would like to explore and potentially develop.