Washington, April 29 (IANS) US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday aimed at reversing Obama-era restrictions on offshore oil and gas drilling.
"Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 per cent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production," Xinhua news agency quoted Trump as saying at a White House signing ceremony.
"This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth," he said.
Trump said his executive order, titled "Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy", starts the process of opening offshore areas to "job-creating energy exploration."
The order reverses the previous US administration's ban on new offshore drilling leases in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, which was approved in late December by former President Barack Obama.
It also directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a review of the country's 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas exploration development plan, which was also finalised under the Obama administration.
The announcement was met with criticism from environmentalists, who pointed to past drilling disasters, such as the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"President Trump is taking aim at expanding this dirty and dangerous industry into new areas like the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico," Jacqueline Savitz, senior Vice President for Oceana, an ocean conservation organisation, said in a statement.
"Let me be clear: that would be a huge, bad, stupid mistake. I doubt President Trump would want to see Mar-a-Lago, or any of his other coastal resorts, covered in oil," Savitz added.