Update March 15, 2016: The Obama administration said it will not auction off drilling rights for Atlantic Ocean waters off the coast of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. However, the Department of Interior will consider the sale of drilling rights in three spots in the Arctic — the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet — from 2017 to 2022.

Oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast could begin as soon as July of 2017.

That plan was the topic of discussion yesterday in a private meeting with federal agencies and oil and gas funded groups, according to Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press. State regulators from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina also attended.

The Department of Interior, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), is currently writing a five-year leasing plan for offshore oil and gas drilling that would begin in 2017. BOEM was one of many federal agencies representing the Obama administration in the closed-door meeting.

Dan Simmons, the vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) also attended the meeting with federal and state officials. IER is a nonprofit think tank funded and founded by the Koch brothers.

Biesecker writes,

Incorporation filings show the institute [IER] grew out of a Texas-based advocacy group co-founded by Charles Koch, the chief executive officer of Koch Industries. The institute’s president, Thomas J. Pyle, previously worked as a lobbyist for Koch Industries, whose subsidiaries include extensive oil and gas operations.

Simmons previously worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-funded group that has worked to ease environmental regulations for the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

In addition to IER speaking at the meeting, Michael Zehr from the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) also presented. CEA is run by a public relations firm called HBW Resources. In fact, CEA compensated HBW Resources $1.2 million in 2012 for “management & professional” services. HBW Resources also has close ties to Alberta’s tar sands industry, and helped defeat Obama’s efforts of creating a low carbon fuel standard.

Funding to CEA comes from oil and gas interests. CEA received $282,500 from the American Petroleum Institute (API), the largest trade association for oil and gas industry, from 2008 to 2012. API also funds groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

CEA was recently in the news for having its petition rejected by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The petition supported proposals from utility companies Madison Gas & Electric and We Energies for an increase of fixed charges on electricity bills, a way for utility companies to slow the development of solar energy. People that are on CEA’s petition said they were unsure how they ended up on the list when contacted by The Capital Times.

The Obama Administration’s 2017-2022 Offshore Drilling Timeline

BOEM began the first step in 2017-2022 OCS leasing program by having a comment period, which began in June and ended in August. (On behalf of CEA, David Holt submitted the organizations’ comments in support of BOEM including all 26 OCS planning areas in the program. Holt is the ‘H’ in HBW Resources.)

During the comment period period the Obama administration also established guidelines for seismic testing. This will allow ships to gauge offshore oil and gas reserves.

Currently, BOEM is drafting the proposed plan for drilling. Once finished with the draft another comment period will occur. BOEM will then issue the final program and will receive comments from Congress. The entire planning process will take three years to complete. A timeline is available here.

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Deputy Director at the Energy and Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. Before joining the Energy and Policy Institute in 2014, Matt was a research assistant at the Center for American Progress where he worked on various state and local policy issues.