Expansion of Offshore Drilling in the US Follows Roll Back of Offshore Drilling Safety Regulations

This morning the Trump administration unveiled a proposal to allow offshore oil and natural gas drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and Atlantic. The proposal, called the Draft Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, would open up 47 new areas for drilling between 2019 and 2024, many just off the coasts of Maine, California, Florida, and Alaska.

This controversial proposal has already garnered plenty of criticism, including plenty of opposition from Trump's own party. The republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, has stated that he's not in favor offshore drilling, and neither is South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, also a republican. Governor McMaster is specifically concerned about drilling's impact on his state's natural resources. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, another Republican, has stated his strong opposition to offshore drilling, citing his concerns that it would jeopardize his state's $44 billion beach tourism industry that creates more than 300,000 jobs in New Jersey.

Governor Christie isn't the only one worried about his beach tourism industry - republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida also adamantly opposes offshore drilling off the coast of Florida. Florida's beach tourism industry annually generates nearly $50 billion dollars and about 500,000 jobs and Governor Scott has personally requested a meeting with Secretary Zinke of the Department of Interior to discuss the drilling proposal. Two more Florida republicans, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Matt Gaetz have also expressed their opposition to the proposal and any drilling off Florida's coasts.

In the past, presidential administrations have worked with state leaders to get their approval before opening up offshore drilling in their states, both as a political courtesy and because offshore drilling requires onshore cooperation. Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, perfectly described the situation by saying "this radical offshore drilling free-for-all is a clear example of politics over people, ignoring widespread local and state opposition."

Of course, not all the reactions have been negative. The proposal has been embraced by oil and gas industry groups, who have been lobbying for an expansion of offshore drilling. Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute praised the draft plan as "a long term commitment to securing our energy future... and help[ing] cement America's role as an energy superpower, creating jobs and contributing to our economy." Secretary Zinke wholeheartedly defended his draft proposal as a big step towards "American energy dominance" and becoming "the strongest energy superpower." This proposal fits right in with the administration's desire to open more areas to oil and gas drilling and to revive the coal industry.

This proposal to expand offshore drilling comes on the heels of the administration rolling back offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people and pumped 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster had environmental, public health, and economic impacts and BP estimated that the total cost of the disaster was $61.6 billion dollars. It sure seems like playing with fire to expand offshore drilling the same week that you eliminate the safety regulations.

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