The Trump Administration announced Thursday it would open virtually all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. Environmentalists and state governors are pushing back. Photo: Flickr/Deep Water Horizon Response

The Inertia

In a major blow to Obama-era environmental protections, the Trump Administration announced Thursday its intention to open virtually all U.S. waters to offshore oil exploration and drilling.

The plan would roll back a ban on drilling issued by President Obama in his final days in office, and give the energy sector access to drilling rights in waters off the coast of California, in the northern Atlantic near Maine and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“We’re embarking on a new path for energy dominance in America, particularly on offshore,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during a press conference. “This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. We are going to become the strongest energy superpower.”

Drilling is unlikely to begin overnight, though. According to the New York Times, it could take as long as 18 months to finalize the plan. Still, environmental groups and state governors are already pushing back.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, issued a statement following the announcement explaining his opposition to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” he said. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”

In a nod to Patagonia whose homepage turned an ominous black with the words “The President stole your land,” following an announcement to shrink several national monuments late last year, the Surfrider Foundation’s website has now gone black and reads, “Drilling is killing.”

“Our ocean, waves, and beaches are vital recreational, economic, and ecological treasures to our coastal communities that will be polluted by new offshore oil drilling, regardless of whether or not there is a spill,” said Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, in a statement. “Without a massive mobilization by coastal communities around the country in opposition to new offshore drilling, our voice will be drowned out by the lobbying power of Big Oil in Washington, D.C.”

The Surfrider Foundation’s home page offered a bleak message on Thursday following the Trump Administration’s announcement it would open up virtually all U.S. waters to offshore drilling.

The office of California Governor Jerry Brown has yet to issue a response to the announcement, but Governor Brown has been particularly vocal about permanently banning offshore drilling off the California coast.

“California has one of the world’s most beloved coastlines and most successful ocean-based economies,” said Jennifer Savage, Surfrider’s California Policy Manager. “A survey released earlier this year confirmed that 73 percent of Californians say the condition of the ocean and beaches is very important to California’s future economy and quality of life. That’s a huge majority willing to push back against those who are putting the interests of oil and gas companies over the health of our coastal economies and communities.”

Kevin Book, an energy consultant and managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, told the New York Times that it will likely be years before drilling actually occurs in areas noted in the Trump Administration’s proposal and that many states will likely move to protect their respective coastlines.

“By the time they get to the final plan, many of the things that were possibilities are going to be on the cutting room floor,” he said.


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