Trump to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling, despite bipartisan opposition: report

In the face of opposition from over 100 lawmakers and the Pentagon, Trump moves to open U.S. waters to drilling

Published January 4, 2018 4:59PM (EST)

  (Andrew Milligan / PA via AP) (AP)
(Andrew Milligan / PA via AP) (AP)

Despite widespread bipartisan opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling, both from lawmakers and the Pentagon, the Trump administration announced it would open nearly all United States waters to drilling on Thursday, according to multiple news reports.

More than 100 lawmakers, the Pentagon, and even key Republican governors have expressed disapproval over the proposal by the Interior Department that would roll back an Obama-era ban on drilling that covered "more than 100 million offshore acres along the Arctic and Eastern Seaboard," as the New York Times reported.

Several Republican governors, including Larry Hogan of Maryland, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott of Florida, have openly expressed opposition to offshore oil and gas production.

"In addition to their environmental and cultural importance, Atlantic Ocean waters also provide significant economic value to our state," an August letter from Christie read. He added that he "strongly opposes any waters off our coastline being considered for inclusion in this leasing program."

Scott said it's something he opposes in Florida, and discussed his "concerns" with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. However, Scott did seem less concerned if the offshore drilling occurred elsewhere away from his state.

During the Obama administration, officials contemplated "a 5-year plan to permit drilling in the southern Atlantic between Virginia and Georgia," but ultimately it was "abandoned in March 2016 because of concerns raised by the Navy, which conducts military exercises in a vast area of the ocean near those states.... A barrage of letters and comments from coastal communities opposed to the plan also played a role," the Washington Post reported.

Offshore oil and gas drilling has led to significant environmental catastrophes, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion "and subsequent spill of 215 million gallons of crude into the Gulf that fouled beaches from Louisiana to Florida. The effects of the spill are still being felt more than seven years later," the Post reported.

The decision strongly aligns with President Donald Trump's aggressive energy and deregulatory agenda, with next to zero concern for environmental impacts. The move comes only a week after the Trump administration positioned itself to roll back the drilling safety regulations put in place following the 2010 spill, as the Times also reported.

In addition, the Trump administration recently halted "a study that aimed to make drilling platforms safer," as the Post noted.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed environmental concerns in regard to climate change, as well as in regard to policy measures such as drilling for oil and natural gas. Snuck inside the recently-signed GOP tax bill was a proposal that effectively opened up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas production, undermining a decades-long fight from activists to keep the refuge untouched. The proposal promised massive economic growth, but as Salon previously reported, those predictions are likely to be wildly optimistic.



By Charlie May

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