The Trump administration has temporarily postponed its reckless plan to open nearly every U.S. coast to offshore drilling, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Bloomberg. If those reports are accurate, this could be a key turning point in the effort to stop this dangerous plan and to protect our oceans, coastal economies, and the climate.
The draft offshore drilling plan—the most extreme any administration has ever proposed—is designed to exploit nearly every U.S. coast for the benefit of the oil industry. And while we have no reason to believe the administration isn’t still pursing this, its apparent hesitation demonstrates that the more communities, citizens and elected leaders rise up in opposition and demand action from their elected representatives, the better our chances of stopping such a disaster.
In giving a reason for the delay, Secretary Bernhardt referenced a court victory in a case NRDC brought with partners—in which a federal court in Alaska upheld the permanent protections President Obama established for the Arctic and Atlantic. But what’s really at the heart of the matter is a massive, bipartisan coalition that has come together to oppose offshore drilling since Trump’s Interior Department announced its massive leasing plans, putting our nation’s coastlines at risk. That coalition includes many Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, including the entire congressional delegation from Florida (Senate and House), countless coastal and statewide elected representatives, governors, and more than 350 communities on the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
All of this opposition suggests that the writing is on the wall. Some states are even banning drilling in their near shore waters—sending a strong a message to this administration and doing all they can to protect their coasts. The issue of offshore drilling followed Secretary Barnhardt through his confirmation, with a number of Senators asking for assurances to protect their states from drilling. Without a doubt, the political winds are not at the back of drilling supporters. And the Trump administration should pay attention.
But through this fight to protect our communities, oceans and coasts, we can’t take the Interior Secretary’s comments as any type of guarantee that we’ve defeated the Trump administration’s offshore agenda. This is no time to let up. It’s extraordinary that an administration that takes its marching orders from the oil and gas industry has hit the pause button. But the worst thing we could do in response is to do the same. Now is the time to up our engagement and make sure there is no more room for this plan.
We need to continue to work with elected leaders from both sides of the aisle to pass legislation to protect our coasts and oceans from offshore drilling for good. We need to be ready to respond when the Administration does put forward a proposed leasing program. And we need to keep working with our partners on the frontlines as they organize their communities and build even greater opposition to the threat of offshore drilling.