Five days after releasing an extreme plan to expose all of America’s coasts to offshore drilling, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rushed to Florida to meet with Gov. Rick Scott, who, under political pressure, flip-flopped to publicly oppose the Interior Department’s drilling plan. Apparently without even making Zinke leave the airport, Scott “convinced” him to remove Florida from the leasing plan entirely—a message Zinke promptly delivered via tweet.
The tweet unleashed an immediate, national backlash from the many governors, other elected officials and communities who have long opposed expanded offshore drilling. Their reaction underscored that the Trump administration’s Florida decision was little more than a political gift to Rick Scott. Of the 15 coastal governors to blast Interior’s drilling plan, Scott is the only one with a long history as a Trump supporter, and the only one who is said to be preparing for a run for the United States Senate. Indeed, President Trump is personally pushing him to do so.
Oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 and ruining coastal communities in the Gulf. (Photo: European Space Agency)
An arbitrary carve-out for Florida to benefit the potential Senate campaign of a staunch supporter? This is political cronyism at its worst. It’s also a smoke-and-mirrors ploy that still leaves Florida’s vibrant coastal economies—and all of us—exposed to the oil spills and carbon pollution that is part and parcel of offshore drilling. If Trump’s offshore drilling plans are actualized and drilling is expanded in the Central Gulf of Mexico and into the Southern Atlantic, no amount of political pandering would keep Florida safe. After all, oil spills don’t recognize state boundaries, nor does air pollution or the impacts of climate change.
That is why offshore drilling is broadly unpopular, and the response to this latest proposed oil drilling leasing plan makes perfectly clear that nobody wants oilrigs off their beaches.
Elected officials who truly care about protecting their coastal communities and preserving their coastal economies ought to stand together—and with millions of concerned citizens—against the Trump administration’s proposal. They’re passionate, they’re bipartisan, and they’re powerful, and together, they can defend our coasts. Here are some of the numerous statements they’ve made in opposition to drilling:
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
“As Governor, I’m here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast…In Washington, D.C., deregulation is a top priority. That means fewer safeguards for the environment and ultimately offshore drilling. It’s simply not worth it.”
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster
“Our tourism industry and our glorious natural resources…are beyond compare in the United States. They are the source of enormous economic growth and prosperity and we can not take a chance with those resources, those industries, and the economy. It’s just too important.”
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo
“The President is endangering the health of nearly all coastal waters in our country, including our 400 miles of coastline in Rhode Island, so that rich oil companies can get richer…We’ve taken action over the past few years to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in alternative energy sources… Now is the time for Rhode Islanders to make their voices heard and tell President Trump to protect our waters.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
“President Trump’s move to allow new offshore oil and gas drilling on nearly all previously off-limit coastal waters represents yet another federal assault on our environment and our future. Instead of taking action to confront climate change and safeguard our natural resources, the administration is abdicating its responsibility to protect our future.”
Delaware Governor John Carney
“Drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic off Delaware’s coast would create the risk of a catastrophic spill or other related disasters that would not only threaten our natural resources, but pose serious threats to Delaware’s economy…We also have an obligation to take steps to confront climate change, and this takes us in the wrong direction.”
Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam
“A commitment to preserving the health of Virginia’s coastline has fueled the growth of the New Virginia Economy—today’s announcement puts the progress we’ve made at risk.”
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown joint statement
“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike.
“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science.
“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”
Here is some of the immediate outrage expressed by Senators and Members of Congress:
37 United States Senators, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King (ME), Senator Bill Nelson (FL), Senator Bob Menendez (NJ), Senator Maggie Hassan (NH), Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ), Congressman Jared Huffman (CA), Congressman Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (CA), Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL), Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN), Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Congressman Lacy Clay (MO), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME), Congresswoman Lois Frankel (FL), Congressman David Price (NC), Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA), Congressman Rick Larson (WA), and more.
If you were paying attention to that list, you’ll notice that a couple of the officials who’ve made statements aren’t in coastal areas. They’re speaking out for good reason. The waters Trump’s Interior Department is attempting to auction off for drilling are publicly owned. They belong to each of us and are held by the federal government in trust to advance the national interest.
If Trump’s plans are carried out, Americans from Myrtle Beach to Bozeman will be harmed. All will have their natural heritage degraded, and most will face the effects of exacerbated climate change. We will all remain shackled to the fossil fuels of the past.
It is time for all of us to stand together and demand that Trump stop treating our oceans like his private playground, protecting his buddies’ political futures and his private beach clubs, while trashing the rest of the country.
To take action, urge Ryan Zinke and your elected officials to join the dozens of governors, senators, and millions of Americans in opposing expanded offshore drilling.