Bipartisan opposition is clear against Trump's offshore drilling

Bipartisan opposition is clear against Trump's offshore drilling

In today’s fraught political climate, it is almost impossible to find a truly bipartisan issue. But offshore oil and gas drilling is one. Overwhelmingly, both Democrats and Republicans oppose offshore drilling off America’s coasts.

Offshore oil drilling is wildly unpopular across party lines. Governors from both parties in 17 coastal states have announced their opposition to drilling for oil off their shores. More than 330 municipalities on the East and West coasts have passed resolutions against offshore oil drilling and seismic airgun blasting. A group of 37 senators sent a letter to the secretary of Interior expressing strong opposition to the department's plans to expand offshore drilling to new areas. Florida’s entire federal delegation of 29 lawmakers sent a letter to the Defense secretary, expressing concerns over expanded offshore drilling.

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Coastal communities, businesses and elected officials understand that offshore oil drilling threatens existing jobs, economies, the environment and livelihoods. It also puts ocean recreation and tourism at risk, which provides 2.2 million jobs and contributes more than $115 billion annually to our nation’s economy. 

Offshore drilling environmental impacts begin even before the first oil rig is built. Damage to the ocean and marine life starts when oil companies conduct seismic blasting to seek oil under the sea floor. The deafening noise created by the seismic airgun blasting harms whales, dolphins and sea turtles. It also drives fish away, causing major ecosystem impacts and hurting tourism and fishing industries.

Oil spills are a regular part of offshore oil drilling. Each year, about 880,000 gallons of oil are released to the ocean from North American offshore oil drilling platforms, and that’s just during normal operations. The process of drilling also releases thousands of gallons of polluted water and chemical-based fluids, called “drilling muds” into the marine environment. These contain toxic substances, such as arsenic, benzene, zinc, radioactive materials and other contaminants.

With proposed new offshore drilling, the threat of another massive oil disaster is imminent. In 2010, nearly 5 million barrels of toxic oil spewed from the drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, over the course of 87 days. Tourism plummeted along the Gulf Coast, resulting in the estimated loss of billions in decreased visitor spending, millions in lost tax revenue and thousands of impacted jobs. Coastal communities also lost their way of life and the economic results were devastating.

Even in the best-case scenario, offshore oil in the Atlantic and Pacific would provide only about 758 days worth, or about 25 months, worth of oil at current rates of consumption. So offshore drilling will threaten the long-term health of our precious coastlines and increase the risks of another devastating oil spill without benefiting anyone but Big Oil.

In the next few weeks, the Trump administration is expected to release an updated proposal to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. That’s why more than a thousand coastal businesses and elected officials have spoken out to Department of Interior in opposition to new offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. In total, over 48,000 businesses on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have now opposed new offshore drilling. 

Our nation’s coastal tourism, recreation and fishing industries rely on clean water and healthy beaches. They provide 12 times the amount of jobs in comparison to offshore oil production. New offshore drilling is a lose-lose, short-sighted approach that ignores massive bipartisan opposition and threatens the drivers of our nation’s coastal economies, businesses and communities for this and future generations.

Chad Nelsen, D.Env., is CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental not-for-profit organization.