I love the ocean. Its enormity inspires me, impresses me, moves me. Its future worries me. As the famous Oceanographer Sylvia Earle said, “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you're connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.” Whether we live in the deserts of Nevada or near the beaches of my native Florida, we are all connected to the oceans and for this reason, we must all do our part to take care of the ocean.
Every year, on June 8th the world marks International Oceans’ Day, and this year it served as an important reminder of the risks that our oceans and all that depends on them face. In April, President Trump took the first troubling step towards opening the Arctic and Atlantic, and potentially the Pacific, to expanded offshore oil drilling and attempted to undo the much-needed permanent protections currently in place.
Besides being another move to enrich huge, international oil companies that pollute our country and worsen climate change, expanding drilling not far from our coastlines is simply too high risk.
Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that pollutes the ocean and puts our coastal communities and sensitive marine ecosystems at huge risk of the harms from a catastrophic oil spill. But the limits don’t stop at the coasts. Even for those living inland, these impacts affect us all. Covering 71% of our planet, the ocean impacts everything from our food to our water, air and climate. These oceans, beaches, coasts, belong to all of us, and we must keep them safe and healthy for everyone to enjoy.
Seven years ago, the U.S. suffered the worst drilling disaster in our history. The BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting massive oil spill killed 11 people and leaked 3.19 million barrels of oil and gas into the ocean about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana for 87 days.
Despite this and other disasters, Trump wants to sell off more of our publicly managed coastal areas to the oil industry and the administration has begun taking steps to make this a reality. His executive order proposes to open the Arctic and Atlantic to new offshore oil drilling, seeks to remove important security measures for oil extraction operations, and attempts to remove protections designed to preserve our most valuable, ecologically rich ocean resources. The Department of the Interior has already announced plans to allow seismic blasting off the Atlantic coast—a dangerous precursor to drilling. These loud underwater explosions harm marine life and disrupt sensitive ecosystems and the activities surrounding these like fishing, recreation and tourism.
Communities across the country have already declared their opposition to expanded offshore drilling and are sending a message to our elected leaders to keep dirty, dangerous oil drilling, including the seismic exploration for oil, off our coasts and out of the ocean.
Latino, African American, Asian American, indigenous communities have expressed strong opposition to turning these public waters over to private companies, recognizing that expanded “Atlantic and Arctic drilling leaves us all vulnerable to disasters that pose an unacceptable risk to our oceans, beaches, coastal communities, marine life, and to the livelihood of the millions of Americans who depend on healthy oceans for fishing, recreation, and tourism dollars.”
Communities in the United States and around the world are directly suffering the impacts of climate change on their health, security, and way of life, and want action. Our communities cannot wait. Not only are we more likely to experience asthma, sea-level rise, and other negative health impacts due to the pollution driven by carbon and other fossil-fuels, millions in our communities rely on healthy oceans to sustain our economies and feed our families. Our future depends on clean renewable energy, not sacrificing our oceans to drill for oil that harms our families’ health and pollutes our world.
Over the next year, the Department of the Interior and Congress will consider options for expanding offshore drilling to regions including the Mid- and South Atlantic, Florida’s Gulf Coast, the California Coast, and the Arctic Ocean. This misguided move ignores the fact that clean energy is now the fastest-growing and cheapest source of power in the country. Far more Americans want to preserve our oceans than sell them to oil companies to exploit.
The millions of Americans who live in these areas know all too well what’s at stake. Americans who live inland know what's at stake as well, because whether we live in Colorado or Virginia, Alaska or Houston, all of us know that reckless government actions like these, which threaten our public lands—places that belong to all of us—must be stopped.
Please visit our campaign page and tell Secretary Zinke and President Trump to keep drilling off our coasts and protect our oceans and our world.
* This post was updated to correct a typo and for clarity on 6/20/17