BP stepped up its campaign to be allowed to drill for oil in the Arctic sea and an Alaskan wildlife refuge after Donald Trump was elected president, according to documents that detail the British firm’s lobbying efforts.
Documents written by BP and oil industry groups show how the oil “supermajor” seized on the opportunity presented by Trump’s 2016 election victory to expand its offshore business, just seven years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Areas it targeted include the Arctic sea, where experts have warned an oil spill could be an ecological disaster, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), not far from where BP spilled 222,000 gallons of oil atPrudhoe Bay in 2006.
Despite the reputational damage it had suffered after successive spills, BP played a key role in lobbying the government to loosen restrictions on oil drilling, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace’s investigative unit, Unearthed and shared with the Guardian.
Within a year of taking office, the president sought to overturn drilling bans introduced under the Obama administration in the wake of the 2010 spill, in which millions of gallons of oil spewed into the sea off the US south coast.
In February 2017, a month after Trump’s inauguration, the American Petroleum Institute (API), of which BP is a member, wrote to the Department of the Interior calling for the reversal of an executive order by Barack Obama in 2014 banning oil drilling in large areas of the Atlantic and Arctic.
Lobbying disclosures made by BP America show that the company also intervened independently, making representations on issues relating to “Arctic oil and gas development”.
That same month, Trump reversed Obama’s executive order, a decision that was later itself overturned by a federal judge in Alaska and remains the subject of a legal dispute.
Separate communication between BP and the Trump administration reveals that BP was not satisfied by Trump’s efforts to open up the Arctic.
In August 2017, BP’s regional president in the Gulf of Mexico, Richard Morrison, wrote to Kelly Hammerle, national programme manager of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees offshore oil development, urging the organisation to expand the areas open for drilling.
Morrison also signed a joint industry letter which urged the BOEM to “make new areas in the Atlantic, eastern Gulf of Mexico, Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska, and the Pacific available for leasing as part of the programme”.
In January 2018, the Trump administration unveiled plans to allow oil exploitation in almost all US offshore territory, including previously protected areas.
In March 2018, BP pressed for even more measures to support its offshore ambitions.