Trump is trying to massively expand offshore drilling, and it’s scary any way you look at it
In yet another dangerous move for the environment, Donald Trump is trying to expand offshore drilling, which basically no one but him and oil companies want. Apart from being another sad attempt to roll back anything having to do with Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, this move (if it comes to fruition) would be just flat-out irresponsible. The plan to reopen offshore drilling along every single coast will take about 18 months to go into effect, according to the New York Times. Already, coastal states are rallying against the proposed plan, which means there might be hope of convincing the Trump administration that sucking up to energy and oil companies is not their best look.
This is especially true since experts agree that the risk to the environment isn’t worth any upside to such dramatic expansion of offshore oil drilling. And there might not even be much of a reward at all, according to CNBC, since many of the areas he’s opening up have been off limits for decades, resulting in a major lack of infrastructure needed to start drilling anyway. John McNabb, former chairman and CEO of Willbros, which CNBC describes as one of the “largest energy infrastructure contractors in the world,” said that, “You have to put in a huge amount of infrastructure, and the return of investment on such infrastructure is not there. The price of oil is too low.”
So Trump will happily fail the oceans and American workers just to say he “did” something while in office and really stick it to Obama. Please, will someone take away his Sharpie and get him to stop signing things?
This plan has been in the works since last April, when Trump ordered the Interior Department to look into Obama’s five-year offshore drilling plan, that banned new leases in the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans, which he signed just before leaving office and protected about 94 percent of the outer continental shelf.
According to statements from the Interior Department’s Ryan Zinke, this move has blocked “billions” of dollars in revenue for the country, according to Reuters. The new plan would open 25 of the 26 continental shelves, leaving only one in Alaska that President George Bush protected in an executive order. (His son tried to roll it back, but Congress stopped him.)
The Interior Department is going to hold 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024. A handful of those are in the Pacific Ocean off of California, which has been blocked to drilling since an oil spill in 1969. Other areas have been blocked off since the 1980s.
There’s a reason these areas are protected and drilling is banned in them, even if energy companies don’t like it. Offshore drilling is *so*bad for the environment. Even people who don’t believe in climate change know that much is true.
Since it affects states on both coasts and on the Gulf of Mexico, legislators from sea to threatened sea are largely not thrilled. Don’t get us wrong: Some of them are more worried about tourist dollars than wildlife, since an oil rig “leak” can completely wreck an otherwise booming tourist area, like when 4.9 billion barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf for three months when the Deepwater Horizon rig broke down. Such incidents also drive down coastal property values, since no one wants to live on contaminated land.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that he would fight to get Florida off of Trump’s list, since it puts the state’s natural resources and local economies in danger. Governor-elect Phil Murphy in New Jersey also pledged to fight the administration in the name of saving New Jersey’s coastlines, as many New Jersey legislators have done in the past.
Murphy said in a statement, according to NJ.com “What the President announced yesterday was nothing less than dropping a ticking time bomb off our coast.” Legislators from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington, and Delaware all also oppose Trump’s move. Even guys who don’t understand biology well enough to write abortion legislation understand that when it comes to offshore drilling, it’s not “if” there’s a spill, it’s “when.”
Even when there’s not a spill, drilling creates “drilling muds” which release toxic chemicals into the water. There’s also the dangers of produced water — when you drill, you bring up water that’s locked underground and contains oil. Here’s how the experts at Oceana explain it:
"Produced waters usually have an oil content of 30 to 40 parts per million. As a result, the nearly 2 billion gallons of produced water released into the Cook Inlet in Alaska each year contain about 70,000 gallons of oil."
The rigs themselves disrupt wildlife, too. First, birds and fish are drawn to the rigs and just get killed, resulting in whole food chains and migration patterns getting messed up, which can lead to endangerment, according to Environment America. But then there’s the fact that there’s “flaring” on the rigs, which, in addition to attracting birds to a sudden death, involves burning fossil fuel that produces black carbon. This black carbon increases the mercury content in the fish. It’s a disaster for wildlife and local ecosystems no matter how you look at it.
As if that weren’t enough, last month, the Interior Department rolled back the safety regulations on rigs that were put into place after the Deepwater Horizon spill. (No, seriously, you can’t make this up.) So not only is Trump just opening the oceans for bidding from whatever oil company has enough cash and the patience to set up the infrastructure, they won’t be highly regulated, potentially leading to more “mistakes,” “leaks,” and more chemicals than necessary flowing through our waters.
You know what’s coming now: It’s time to call your legislators, because Zinke himself said in his statement that this wasn’t happening “overnight,” so there’s still time to let them know that this unacceptable.