A major environmental battle and a strong political backlash are expected in the wake of President Trump’s announcement today of plans to open the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves to the largest exploitation by global energy companies in history.
Trump’s five-year draft plan announced today by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would open or reopen 90 percent of the nation’s reserves including those in waters off California, Maine and other U.S. states where drilling has been banned for years after horrendous, devastating oil spills that damaged the environment, killed wildlife, devastated recreation areas and poisoned the waters.
Trump/Zinke to propose opening up *nearly all federal waters* to oil and gas drillers, including waters that have been protected for decades. https://t.co/Yj6wzZHAnh
— John Upton (@johnupton) January 4, 2018
More than 60 environmental groups have already formed a coalition to fight Trump’s plan to drill in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, including in many areas with delicate ecosystems that can be harmed for generations by an oil spill.
In a joint statement to the Associated Press, the environmental coalition that includes leaders of the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters and others said Trump’s plan would cause “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.
“These ocean waters are not President Trump’s personal playground,” the coalition said n a statement. “They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies.”
“This extreme proposal,” adds the statement, “is a shameful giveaway” to the oil and gas industries which supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump promised during the campaign that he would expand oil drilling to ensure America’s energy independence and make America a world energy leader; but his decision to focus efforts on fossil fuels while downplaying solar, wind and other clean, efficient energy alternatives shows this is really about favoring a polluting industry over more modern alternatives.
This is only the latest in a series of giveaways to the oil and gas industries by Trump that reverses historic conservation efforts and reverses rules put in place by President Obama after the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast, which continues to be the biggest source of offshore oil produced by the U.S.
The Interior Department’s plan to weaken safety rules for offshore oil drilling is rash and reckless.
Have we forgotten the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe so soon? If Secretary Zinke doesn’t withdraw this plan then Congress must intercede. #sayfie
— Rep. Vern Buchanan (@VernBuchanan) December 30, 2017
Under Trump, safeguards imposed to lessen the chance of a future oil spill, including more safety equipment and better monitoring, has been rolled back at the behest of the industry which doesn’t like rules that cost them money and extra work.
Zinke announced plans for 47 auctions of drilling rights through 2024 that would impact 25 of the nation’s 26 areas designated for possible oil and natural gas exploration.
“This radical offshore drilling free-for-all is a clear example of politics over people, ignoring widespread local and state opposition,” Diane Hoskins of the marine conservation group Oceana told Bloomberg News.
“The Trump administration’s plan not only ignores the risky nature of dirty and dangerous drilling,” she adds, “but also the people and coastal businesses who would be most affected.”
Under the existing rules, states control the first three miles of waters off their coast, while the federal government is in charge of the next 200 miles or so leading into international waters.
So the states will have a say and a legal right to make demands on the federal government before it can implement outrageous new plans that go far beyond anything before.
That matters because the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington state have all said they oppose expanded offshore drilling; and the governors of North Carolina and Virginia have asked Trump to leave their state out of the new plan. Florida’s governor also announced he is opposed earlier today.
All of the states fear another BP type oil spill like the one that occurred in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, or another disaster like the one that devastated waters, fishing, sealife and beaches off Santa Barbara, California in 1969, leading to strict new rules which until now have prohibited drilling in many fragile areas.
Now Trump wants to throw all those conservation efforts under his fossil fuel driven bus.
“The administration’s backward-looking approach puts oil and gas profits first,” says Rhea Suh, president of the NRDC, “and will place our coastal communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster.”
“We’ll stand with leaders of vision, business owners and fishing families on every coast to protect our oceans and shores,” adds Suh.
In the recently passed Republican tax legislation, oil and gas companies who are big political donors made out like bandits, getting huge breaks that will swell their profits.
Now Trump is giving them even more while continuing to ignore the damage to the environment and climate that fossil fuels cause, even when there are no spills.
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) July 9, 2017
Trump’s twisted policies can cause damage which will last long beyond his troubled presidency and inflict dangers, costs, and problems for many generations to come.