It is said that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, and it appears the Trump administration has a short memory. In early January the administration unveiled a plan that would radically expand offshore drilling to all of America’s coasts – from the west coast to the Arctic Ocean, to the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform exploded in 2010, it killed 11 workers and set off the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history. The BP Oil Spill released nearly a million gallons of diesel fuel into the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, and threatened the livelihoods of commercial fishing and shrimping operations and the revenues of states and municipalities.
The move to allow new offshore oil and gas drilling would lift a ban on this type of drilling that was imposed by President Barack Obama in the wake of the BP Oil Spill. It also runs counter to the past administration’s – and the world’s – move toward a clean energy future, and undermines coastal communities already challenged by sea level rise and erosion.
If the plan goes forward, the Interior Department would open 25 of 26 regions of the outer continental shelf, 94 percent of which was blocked to drilling by the Obama administration. It would only spare the North Aleutian Basin, which President George Bush protected in an executive order.
The governors of nearly all coastal states including New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington and Florida have voiced their opposition to the proposed offshore drilling plans. They point to the risk drilling poses to their states’ tourism, fishing and recreational industries.
Alabama is well familiar with those risks. In the wake of the BP oil spill, Alabama suffered the devastation of its beaches, tourism industry and businesses throughout the state, suffering substantial tax losses and environmental impacts. In 2015, Beasley Allen represented the State of Alabama and we reached an $18.7 billion settlement with BP for damages caused by the BP oil spill, the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.
Florida was promised an exemption from offshore drilling by the new administration, but as of Jan. 18 had not received enough confirmation from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that he would honor that promise to rest comfortably. In response, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was blocking confirmation of three Trump administration nominees until the issue is resolved to the state’s satisfaction.
Do we really want to open the door to Big Oil to put its profits ahead of the health of our oceans, putting at risk the livelihoods and critical natural resources of generations? What do you say?
Sources: League of Conservation Voters, The Hill, The New York Times