Trump Administration reveals ecological callousness with repeal of drilling bans

Madeline Ninno, Staff Writer

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Madeline Ninno | Staff Writer

The Trump Administration announced a proposal that will lift existing bans on offshore oil and gas drilling, opening up billions of acres of U.S. coastal waters to oil extraction projects, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic and the Atlantic coast. This move demonstrates the administration’s lack of concern for the health of both the environment and its own citizens, while the inconsistency with which the proposal is applied highlights a deep lack of understanding regarding ecological issues.

The existing ban on drilling was implemented by President Obama in an effort to curb fossil fuel consumption and reduce the risk of oil spills. The ban prohibited drilling on 94 percent of the continental shelf. By removing the ban, the Department of the Interior plans to sell nearly 50 leases in the next six years, with 12 in the Gulf of Mexico. This will allow oil companies to begin the extraction process, something the Trump Administration says will create billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue.

This revenue-centric mindset is both short-sighted and dangerous. The governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington oppose the plan. Meanwhile, a partnership of more than 60 environmental groups have also renounced the plan, as they believe it will cause “severe and unacceptable harm” to coastal areas, marine life and human well-being.

The BP oil spill of 2010 is a perfect of example of the environmental and economic risks posed by offshore drilling. The results of the spill, which released millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, continues to contaminate the Gulf ecosystem. Oil washed up on shorelines in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Pollution also significantly reduced the oyster and sturgeon populations, reducing the revenues of local fisheries.

Adding to the controversy surrounding the proposal, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made an exception regarding the state of Florida, removing the state from consideration for any new oil platforms. This is in response to pressure from Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, who claims that Florida is too reliant on its coast for tourism revenue to face the risks of oil drilling. Although it is true that Florida’s beaches are well-known and attract many visitors, reducing the value of America’s coastal communities to their revenue-producing potential is reckless and dangerous.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, also a Republican, supports the proposal, dismissing concerns that offshore drilling will affect fisheries or military operation in the Gulf.  He believes that it is “environmentally responsible” and will strengthen the economy and security of the nation.

Even if Louisiana were able to be exempted from the plan as Florida was, it does not necessarily protect the state from the consequences of a large-scale oil spill. As the BP spill demonstrates, a spill anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico can hurt communities and ecosystems across the region. Furthermore, the continued consumption of fossil fuels only contributes to climate change, putting Louisiana at greater risk to hurricanes, flooding and other climatic disasters.  Instead of expanding oil drilling operations, the government should reduce the prevalence of these risky activities and focus on shifting the economy towards more sustainable methods of producing energy.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Madeline is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]