Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 30, 2019

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108,

Records Sought on Work on Offshore Drilling Plan During Government Shutdown 

Documents Could Expose Secretive Decision to Recall Furloughed Workers, Communications With Oil Industry

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today asked the Trump administration for records related to its decision to suddenly recall furloughed federal employees to work on the plan to expand offshore drilling during the recent government shutdown. The letter also requests records on oil-industry input into the decision. 

The Freedom of Information Act request seeks documents on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s work on the new five-year offshore leasing plan ordered by President Trump, which would expand offshore drilling into most U.S. oceans. Work on the plan initially stopped on Dec. 28 when the shutdown began, but then restarted around Jan. 8 when the administration revised its shutdown contingency plan.   

“Why was work on the long-term offshore leasing plan suddenly deemed urgent? Listening to the oil industry while locking out public input is unacceptable,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center. “We want to know how and why this decision was made, and who pushed for it. Trump’s demand for more dirty drilling doesn’t override federal law or congressional control over public spending.”

Congressional Democrats have also asked the administration to justify its decision to restart work on offshore leasing during the shutdown. The Feb. 15 deadline to avert another government shutdown and the imminently expected release of the next five-year leasing plan draft lend urgency to the records requests.

A year ago the initial draft of the offshore drilling plan proposed to offer the first Pacific Ocean oil leases since 1984 and to auction offshore leases in hazardous Arctic waters later this year. It would also offer leases in the Atlantic and throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico, including waters currently under a Congressional leasing moratorium. The plan is a replacement for the outer continental shelf leasing plan adopted by the Obama administration after years of work and public input.

“We can’t let this corrupt administration ram through a reckless assault on our oceans,” Sakashita said. “These leases would last for generations, long after this regime has been removed from power. We need to end offshore drilling, not expand it.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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