In 2016, communities up and down the Atlantic coast successfully advocated to keep oil and gas development away from their shorelines, coastal neighborhoods, and vibrant economies dependent on clean and healthy waters. And in his last month in office, President Obama permanently banned drilling off certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean from New England to Virginia.
But after the election of Donald Trump, these hard-fought victories proved to be only temporary.
In his first 100 days, President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE signed an executive order undoing the Obama-era restrictions on offshore oil and gas drilling and later rolled back important safety rules put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and caused the country’s worst oil spill. In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a plan to allow drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters beginning in 2019. Energy companies would have access to billions of acres on the U.S. Atlantic continental shelf, which has never had a producing oil well, and could expand production on the Pacific Seaboard for the first time in 30 years.
The Trump administration envisions oil rigs operating within a hundred miles of San Francisco, the Florida Keys and the Delmarva peninsula within five years. The seismic airgun blasting to find oil and gas deposits that would precede this industrialization of our oceans, and the inevitable oil spills that will follow - would dramatically and permanently impact the nation’s coastlines and the surrounding communities. This would not lead to American energy dominance but instead to ecological and economic disaster.
Despite proposing the largest expansion of oil and gas drilling ever, the administration has provided limited time for public comment. Yet 15 governors, 200 East and West Coast municipalities, over 1,200 bipartisan federal, state and local officials, and more than a million scientists, business owners and everyday Americans have weighed in against the plan - reflecting the extensive economic, social and environmental risks as well as strong community opposition from nearly every impacted state.
Maryland’s inclusion in the draft drilling expansion is heavily opposed in our state. Drilling threatens the Chesapeake Bay - the nation’s largest estuary, our pristine beaches and our thriving tourism and recreation economy and historic seafood and fisheries industries that support nearly 100,000 jobs. If a disaster of Deepwater Horizon’s scale occurred off the Bay, the spill would stretch from Richmond to Atlantic City - poisoning oysters and blue crabs, devastating wetlands, and leaving oil in the environment for decades. It’s not worth it.
Oil and gas development is also opposed by our military, as they have determined it threatens a wide variety of training and testing activities - such as undersea warfare trials, air-to-surface bombing and naval missile tests - critical to our military readiness and national security. The Department of Defense estimates that nearly 94 percent of Virginia’s coast and 78 percent of Georgia’s coast is not conducive to offshore drilling due to military operations. Furthermore, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, which supports a growing commercial space industry, has expressed similar concerns that oil and gas development in adjacent Atlantic waters could imperil future launches including resupply missions to the International Space Station and other future commercial space flight activities.
Despite promises to ‘listen to state and local stakeholders’ President Trump and Secretary Zinke are ignoring these voices of opposition in their drive to put fossil-fuel interests first.
The United States has been the world’s top natural gas producer for nine years and could overtake Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer this year. Within the next five years, the United States is expected to be among the biggest crude oil exporters in the world and become effectively energy independent at home. What then is the compelling economic or security reason to expose coastal communities to the threats of offshore drilling?
Our future is in clean energy, not dirty climate-wrecking offshore drilling. America’s renewable energy sector is growing several times faster than the national economy, produces nearly 20 percent of America’s energy and supports more than 3 million jobs - more than the fossil fuel industry. Under President Obama, we coupled the public’s desire to reduce carbon emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels, and declining costs of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology to make tremendous progress towards creating sustainable jobs, fighting climate change and achieving real energy security.
For purely political reasons, the Trump administration has chosen to push the agenda of the fossil fuel industry while ignoring the opportunities and benefits of a more secure and independent clean energy future. But across America, including in states that voted for President Trump, businesses, governments, and families are taking the lead, transforming the way they power their lives and investing in green policies that can blunt the effects of climate change. Maryland is moving forward with the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and is considering expanding goals for sourcing electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030 while making significant investments in clean energy job training programs. No president can stop this local driven progress.
We must make better choices to ensure the United States will continue to move forward and win the global race to produce affordable, sustainable energy. It starts with ending this radical, reckless and backward-looking pursuit of offshore drilling.
Brown represents Maryland’s 4th District and is a member of the Naturnal Resources Committee and the Armed Services Committee.