Why Trump Is Wrong About Offshore Drilling

Before a president auctions off U.S. coastlines to oil companies, he has to ask state governors, Congress, local businesses, and you. Here’s how Trump is ignoring that process—and how it’s endangering coastal communities.

This is a transcript of the video.

Brian Palmer, environmental journalist, NRDC: In 1896, drillers struck oil in 35 feet of water off the Santa Barbara coast. It kicked off more than a century of arguing about the oil and gas buried in the continental shelf.

In January, the Trump administration announced a plan to expose almost the entire U.S. coastline to drilling. To understand why this decision shocked people, you have to understand a little about how the process is supposed to work and how the Trump administration basically ignored it.

In the late 1970s, the Interior Department divided the coast into 26 segments. Since then, every few years, the department is supposed to examine whether it makes sense to allow drilling in each of these areas.

And take this one: Drilling would threaten Atlantic coastal communities, which rely on fishing and tourism. So most administrations have taken this out. Alaska’s Bristol Bay hosts the world’s greatest salmon fishery, so this one usually comes out, too.

After each round of decisions, the administration is required to seek feedback from other parts of the federal government, state officials, and the public. Maybe the military asks to eliminate portions of this block, because oil exploration would interfere with naval activities. Maybe Californians ask to protect this area, because it’s home to endangered whales. There are lots of reasons not to drill for oil along the U.S. coastline.

Presidents can also place moratoria on drilling in certain areas, as the first President Bush, President Clinton, and President Obama all did. That can take them off the map permanently.

Most administrations have decided not to allow leasing along the vast majority of the coast, in part because Congress prohibited drilling in most areas up until 2008.

These are the only segments where George H. W. Bush allowed leasing in 1992.

This is Bill Clinton’s map from 1997.

This is what George W. Bush did.

And this is the most recent plan completed by President Obama in 2016. He only considered drilling leases in these three segments in the Gulf and this one in Alaska.

In President Trump’s draft plan, he excluded this one—nothing else. That’s right. Under Trump’s current proposal, drilling can happen almost anywhere in American waters.

Tell Congress to stop Trump's dirty, dangerous offshore drilling plan

Why would he do that? Well, while citizens, politicians, and admirals are telling the administration where not to drill, oil executives are clamoring to drill everywhere. They say things like this:

The industries reliance on advanced state-of-the-art technology ensures that we can safely and responsibly develop the vast oil and gas resources off our coast.”

You hear that enough times, and it becomes hard to resist. Here’s President Obama, one of the most environmentally friendly presidents in modern American history on April 2, 2010:

“It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

Eighteen days later, this happened. The oil impacted communities in five states across 1,300 miles of U.S. coastline. President Obama learned a lesson from the Deepwater Horizon: There will always be spills. That’s why near the end of his term, he banned drilling forever in most of the Arctic and important parts of the Atlantic. This is also why governors in most coastal states oppose Trump’s plan.

Drilling would threaten their economies and the communities that rely on coastal waters. Two-hundred municipalities, 1,200 local officials, and 40,000 coastal businesses have spoken out against offshore drilling in their areas.

By proposing to drill just about everywhere, President Trump is ignoring not only these people—and the permanent legal limitations instituted by past administrations—he’s also ignoring the lessons of history.

Remember those Santa Barbara wildcatters? They drilled for six years, then left the beach covered in oil.

There will always be spills.

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