Demand for oil and gas production leases in a potentially vastly expanded swathe of US waters has not materialised so far Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke admitted on Friday, according to Reuters.
Expansion of drilling off almost the entirety of America’s coastline is a key policy commitment of President Donald Trump, with increased oil and gas production seen as a national security issue as much as an economic matter.
It also dovetails with the President’s pledge to unleash industry by cutting red tape and restrictions.
But Secretary Zinke says that a March auction of leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the biggest offering of its kind, drew a tepid response and is probably indicative of a lack of interest from oil and gas companies for new offshore leases in general.
Zinke said a lack of existing infrastructure in or near to a lot of unleased areas was probably a deterrent to some potential bidders.
Also, since Zinke first announced the proposed expansion of coastal drilling in January, opposition has been galvanized by environmentalists and local groups and communities in coastal states.
Soon after the original announcement, Zinke appeared to bend by saying Florida could be exempted because of fears of possible harm to other coast-dependent industries such as fishing and tourism.
Many other states have claimed they deserve similar exemption and Zinke has agree to meet with all concerned governors.
California elected officials have been more proactive, saying they would refuse pipeline permits for any offshore oil, effectively preventing the oil from reaching the state’s shore.