Quantcast

Americans Red and Blue Unite Against Trump's Plan to Drill the Atlantic

Energy
iStock

By Jeff Turrentine

President Trump, to put it mildly, hasn't worked too hard to bring Democrats and Republicans together on many issues. By almost any account, the partisan divide in this country today is wider than it's been in living memory, certainly wider than it was before he took office.

But on one issue, at least, the president seems to have bridged that divide and fostered some much-needed unity. When it comes to endorsing Trump's plan to open up the Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling, citizens in both red and blue states—as well as their elected officials—are speaking with one voice.


They're saying, "Hell, no."

When Trump issued an executive order unveiling his new America-First Offshore Energy Strategy back in April, his administration announced that the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program would be one of its key components. Under the aegis of this new program—which essentially reverses the Obama administration's 2016 ban on drilling in the Atlantic—the U.S. Department of the Interior would begin considering new leases for oil and gas rigs along the Eastern Seaboard for a five-year period beginning in 2019.

Trump knew the move would enrage many of those who didn't vote for him and who already oppose his pro-extraction, anti-renewables energy policy. But by oh-so-cleverly placing the words America First in his plan's name, he probably thought he'd have no trouble picking up support in states where he had performed well in the election, or where the GOP controls the statehouse or the legislature (or both).

Except that's not what happened.

The response from South Carolina—where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 14 points, and where the Trump-supporting Republican governor, Henry McMaster, routinely enjoys the cooperation of a state legislature dominated by members of his party—must have caught the president off guard. "I'm against it," said the governor, flatly and unequivocally, back in June. His objection is shared by the mayors of Republican-heavy cities and towns up and down South Carolina's coast. It's also shared by the president of the state's Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who also leads the multistate Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, which represents more than 40,000 businesses that oppose the drilling leases.

Other Republican governors along the eastern coast who publicly oppose offshore drilling include Larry Hogan of Maryland and Chris Christie of New Jersey—the latter of whom enthusiastically endorsed Trump during the GOP primaries. While the GOP governors of Georgia and Florida, Nathan Deal and Rick Scott, respectively, have kept their mouths shut on the issue so far, their silence is a statement in and of itself. Both endorsed Trump for president, and both of their states went for Trump over Clinton. But they know the vast majority of their constituents don't want oil spills lapping at their coastlines, or the whale-killing seismic blasting that paves the way for the industry. These governors will keep quiet as long as it's politically feasible, although the pressure from newspaper editorial boards, citizens' groups and the business community suggests that time is almost up.

The public comment period for the Atlantic drilling program formally ended last week, and it's now up to the Interior Department, under the leadership of Ryan Zinke, to weigh the administration's desire to dramatically ramp up offshore oil and gas production against the public's response not to. We can safely assume that Trump and his cabinet won't give a moment's thought to objections raised by Democratic governors and lawmakers, environmental organizations and citizens' groups that are already perceived by the administration as hostile. In the president's childishly binary worldview, anyone who has ever disagreed with him on anything is, de facto, an enemy of the state whose opinion isn't worthy of consideration.

But can the president afford to defy the firmly expressed wishes of his base? Of Republican governors? Of business leaders and chambers of commerce in deep-red states? Of conservative stakeholders who are deeply (and rightly) worried about the potential destruction of the shores they call home?

As Trump and Zinke (or more likely their staffers) sift through the tens of thousands of public comments, perhaps it will finally dawn on this administration that the environment simply doesn't work as a wedge issue. Regardless of how they might vote or self-identify ideologically, American citizens have made it abundantly clear that they don't want wildlife-threatening seismic blasts or unnecessary, and leak-prone, oil rigs off their own coastlines. It's a loser on every level—environmental, economic and, yes, political.

Which brings me to my next point: We need to stop treating the protection of the environment as a "political" issue in the conventional sense of that word. We all breathe air and drink water. We all need clean, nontoxic neighborhoods and a safe food supply. We all deserve to enjoy and appreciate natural wonders like oceans, beaches and waterfronts. And we all contribute, through either our actions or our inactions, to the future condition of the planet that our children, and their children, will inherit.

Some have speculated that Trump's primary presidential motivation is nothing more than destroying Barack Obama's legacy. If this is true, then he won't heed the many voices—including those within his own party—telling him to put this idea of drilling in the Atlantic out of its misery and move on to something else. But if he actually cares about something more than spite, or even if he just wants to do the right thing, he'll listen to the American people and try to carry out their will.

Reposted with permission from our media associate OnEarth.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Eating healthy can help you lose weight and have more energy.

Read More Show Less
arinahabich / Stock / Getty Images

By Sydney Swanson

With April hopping along and Easter just around the corner, it's time for dyeing eggs (and inadvertently, dyeing hands.) It's easy to grab an egg-dyeing kit at the local supermarket or drug store, but those dye ingredients are not pretty.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Aerial of farmland and mountains near Seaward Kaikoura Range in New Zealand. David Wall Photo / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images Plus

By Jordan Davidson

New Zealand's pristine image as a haven of untouched forests and landscapes was tarnished this week by a brand new government report. The Environment Aotearoa 2019 painted a bleak image of the island nation's environment and its future prospects.

Read More Show Less
heshphoto / Image Source / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Eating even "moderate" amounts of red and processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer, according to a new study of nearly half a million adults in the United Kingdom.

Read More Show Less
The view from the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan. Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Sierra Searcy

This week, progressive Democrats and youth advocates are launching a nationwide tour to win support for the Green New Deal. Though popular, the ambitious plan to tackle climate change has struggled to earn the endorsement of centrist Democrats in Rust Belt states like Michigan, the second stop on the tour.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Taube / Getty Images

If you are looking for something to do this Easter weekend, why not visit your nearest national park? All sites run by the National Park Service (NPS) will be free Saturday, April 20 as this year's National Park Week kicks off, USA Today reported.

Read More Show Less
A new EPA rule on asbestos does not say anything about the asbestos currently in the environment. Bob Allen / Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a new rule on asbestos Wednesday that it says will "close the door" on new, unapproved uses. But public health advocates warn the rule could actually open the door to increased use of the carcinogenic fibrous material.

Read More Show Less
A mountain woodland caribou bull in the Muskwa-Kechika Wilderness area in northern British Columbia, Canada. John E Marriott / All Canada Photos / Getty Images

It's heartening, in the midst of the human-caused sixth mass extinction, to find good wildlife recovery news. As plant and animal species disappear faster than they have for millions of years, Russia's Siberian, or Amur, tigers are making a comeback. After falling to a low of just a few dozen in the mid-20th century, the tigers now number around 500, with close to 100 cubs — thanks to conservation measures that include habitat restoration and an illegal hunting crackdown.

Read More Show Less