At 1:00pm EST January 4, 2018, Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced his and President Trump’s plan to open 90% of US coastal areas to leasing for oil drilling. Expanding offshore drilling has long been on the wish list for the oil industry, and with Trump in the White House and Zinke at the helm of Interior, it didn’t take long for their wish to come true.
However, the coastal communities and state and local representatives pushed back hard on this announcement. Legislators and governors from California to Rhode Island took to Twitter to protest the plan, most using the hashtag #ProtectOurCoast:
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) responded quickly to Zinke’s plan and spoke on the Senate floor to condemn the move.
In several tweets he reminded the public of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which devastated his home state of Florida. Later in the day he released a statement explaining how opening our shores to drilling would put coastal communities at risk, saying:
“This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public and the environment. This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it.”
Shortly afterward, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) spoke on MSNBC to assure his constituents that he would use all tools at his disposal to block drilling off of the East Coast.
Top Democrats on environmental committees in both the House and Senate also did not waste any time condemning the drilling proposal. In her press release, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ranking Member of the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, stated that the plan “represents an outrageous attack on our coastal economies, culture, and environment.”
In addition, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) led more than three dozen Senators in a letter demanding that Secretary Zinke maintain existing protections from oil drilling.
As the Ranking Member of the US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03) expressed deep concerns that Zinke’s plan would create a situation where “Oil companies get the profits while towns from Washington to California and Maine to Florida bear the enormous costs we know are coming.”
Several members of the Congressional delegation from California also spoke out, highlighting how opening our oceans to drilling would do nothing but boost the profits of Big Polluters. Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02), a longtime advocate for protecting our coasts from drilling, said:
“Secretary Zinke’s announcement today confirms that the Trump administration is hell-bent on trampling the public interest and further lining the pockets of Big Oil at the expense of clean air, clean water, and the health of the American people.”
Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06), who co-chairs the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), also condemned the plan:
Nearly every coastal governor has come out against the move to drill off of our shores. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, and Governor Jerry Brown of California were especially critical of the plan and pledged to do everything they could to stop it. They released a joint statement the afternoon of Zinke’s announcement, saying:
“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.”
Several governors on the east coast echoed that promise including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper:
New Jersey’s Governor Elect Phil Murphy held a press conference with Senator Bill Menendez (D-New Jersey), and Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) in reaction to the Dept. of the Interior’s proposed plan. Gov. Elect Murphy stated:
“What we need to do is support our Shore and the millions of people – from everyday New Jerseyans to those who come from around the world – who love our beaches. We need to support the billions of dollars in economic activity, the tens of thousands of jobs, and the thousands of businesses that rely upon a safe and clean shoreline.”
The huge backlash to Trump’s proposal to lease federally-owned coastal areas for oil drilling is encouraging. As someone who has lived in New Jersey since birth, I take heart that my representatives are standing up for my communities, our waters, and our coastal ecosystems. Speak out now to voice your opposition to opening our coasts for drilling here.