Trump Signs Executive Order to Expand Offshore Drilling

President Trump signed an Executive Order on Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy which contains several provisions and directives aimed at expanding offshore drilling. These include:

  • The establishment of a national policy “to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf.”
  • The revocation of Obama-era decisions to withdraw certain areas of the OCS in Alaska and the Atlantic Cost from leasing.
  • A directive to the Department of Interior (DOI) to consider revising the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales in Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic to that those schedules include annual lease sales to the maximum extent permitted by law.
  • A directive to the Department of Commerce to refrain from designating or expanding any National Marine Sanctuary, unless the action “includes a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential in the designated area,” and to review designations of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Monuments established or expanded in the last decade and report back on “the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production” in those areas.
  • A directive to DOI to reconsider final and proposed rules intended to mitigate the environmental effects of offshore drilling, including the well control rule, the proposed offshore air rule, and the offshore arctic drilling rule.
  • A directive for DOI and Commerce to undertake expedited considerations of incidental harassment authorizations, incidental take permits, and seismic survey permits.


On May 3, 2017, twelve conservation and Alaska Native groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, challenging revocation of the decisions to withdraw offshore areas in Alaska and the Atlantic Coast from leasing. The suit alleges that, in revoking the decisions, President Trump exceeded his constitutional authority and his statutory authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.