The U.S. President Donald Trump last week signed a new executive order that asks for a review of the oil and gas drilling bans imposed by the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, two offshore wind farm projects proposed to be built off Ocean City are under review by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), which must approve or deny the proposed offshore wind project applications no later than 17 May, 2017.
The projects are in contention for a portion of the USD 1.9 billion Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credit (OREC).
US Wind plans to build a 750MW offshore wind farm some 15 miles off Ocean City. If approved, the project is anticipated to come online in early 2020, with an operational life expectancy of more than 25 years. Deepwater Wind filed an OREC application for the 120MW Skipjack wind farm project located some 17 nautical miles northeast of Ocean City.
“I want to remind all of us who live in Ocean City we have a choice to make right now. We can be looking at the horizon at oil derricks or we can be looking at the horizon at windmills. I think the choice is pretty obvious,” Maryland Coast Dispatch quotes Assateague Coastal Trust Executive Director and Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips as saying upon the signing of the executive order.
Even though welcomed by the oil and gas industry, the move led to a coalition of senators representing east coast states sending a letter to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to whom the executive order was issued. The senators, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, expressed their concerns on drilling being an environmental harm to the coastal areas. Aside from the state officials, some of the environmentalist and clean energy groups have also voiced their opposition to lifting the drilling ban.
The former administration’s moratorium came after an initial plan to lease millions of acres off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast for oil and gas exploration and drilling came across a fierce opposition from coastal communities, local governments and environmentalist organisations.
According to the Maryland Coast Dispatch, Donald Trump’s new executive order is expected to be approached in the same way.
“We are going to need everyone’s support to help us fight this again. We did it last time and we’re going to take what worked last time and we’re going to be successful again, but we need your help now more than ever,” Maryland Coast Dispatch quotes Assateague Coastal Trust Executive Director and Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips as saying.
More than a hundred towns and cities on the Atlantic coast have resolutions against offshore drilling in place, according to NPR, which also reports that the Interior Secretary Zinke said he was optimistic about offshore wind development and that the “stringent environmental safeguards already in place” will not be removed.