As the Trump administration eyes opening federal waters up to offshore drilling, states are fighting back.
Oregon plans to permanently block offshore drilling off of its coast, in the latest indicator that efforts by the Trump administration to expand oil and gas exploration and development in federal waters remain highly unpopular in coastal states. The move also comes amid a tightening race for governor that could significantly impact how Oregon addresses climate issues going forward.
In a Facebook Live event on Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that the state will move to ban offshore drilling, a move supported by green groups and environmental advocates.
“Across Oregon, we are certainly seeing the strain of climate change,” Brown said, pointing to increasingly devastating wildfires, as well as persistent algal blooms in state waters and the rise of deadly storms, trends climate scientists have attributed to global warming.
“At a time when the states are doing more than the federal government to protect the environment, the Trump administration is trying to allow oil rigs to be built off of every single coast line in America except for Florida,” Brown said. “I’m tired of waiting for the federal government to come to their senses and realize this is a terrible mistake.”
The governor said she will sign an executive order in coming days to formalize the ban, and that she will be working with lawmakers to ensure “that no future governor can reverse this executive order with the stroke of a pen.” Pointing to a recent dire Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighting the pressing need to combat climate change, Brown said she would continue to fight the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks.
The number of people who hate Trump’s offshore drilling plans keeps growing
Months after the plan was first proposed, the opposition has not quieted down.
Under President Trump, offshore drilling efforts have gained traction despite widespread opposition from states and environmental activists. In January, Trump proposed opening virtually all federal waters to drilling, including the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Under that five-year leasing plan, spanning from 2019 to 2024, some 90 percent of U.S. offshore areas would open to drilling.
On the West Coast, efforts to expand offshore drilling have been met with vicious opposition, with the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington all opposed. The more politically diverse Atlantic Coast has shown similar resistance, with a lengthy bipartisan list of state and local lawmakers all in opposition to the Trump administration’s plans. Exactly one Atlantic Coast governor, Maine’s Paul LePage (R), has indicated his support for offshore drilling.
Public opinion on offshore drilling meanwhile remains overwhelmingly negative and at least one survey published in May by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland found that more than 60 percent of voters oppose lifting the ban on offshore oil drilling.
And according to a report last month, Trump’s plan also threatens scores of national parks, including the Channel Islands National Park in California, the Everglades in Florida, and Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. The National Parks Conservation Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) May report argued that the burning of fossil fuels in offshore areas could expose protected natural areas to both sea level rise and storm surges exacerbated by climate change.
Trump’s offshore oil and gas drilling plan threatens scores of coastal national parks From Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Channel Islands National Park, coastal lands are under attack.
In an effort to push back against the administration’s efforts to open up coastal waters to oil and gas lawmakers are increasingly turning to their own devices, as demonstrated by bipartisan efforts like the bill introduced Tuesday.
In New Jersey, legislators unanimously passed the nation’s toughest offshore oil drilling legislation in April, banning both drilling and natural gas exploration in coastal waters. Only one lawmaker, Parker Space (R), voted against that bill.
California is also moving closer to uniformly rejecting any such efforts in its own waters. Last week, the state’s Senate and Assembly passed two bills effectively banning offshore drilling, in a direct blow to the Trump administration. That legislation will likely be finalized in August by the wider California legislature.
The bipartisan bill introduced on Tuesday, however, emerged on the same day that the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced a new coalition in support of offshore drilling. The Explore Offshore initiative aims to argue the benefits of drilling, presenting such efforts as an economic opportunity.
“In order to responsibly plan for tomorrow we must continue to explore safely and develop oil and natural gas resources today to ensure America’s economic future,” former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson told reporters Wednesday. Nicholson is helping to head the API initiative.
That effort will focus on the Southeast, namely the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida — overlapping with the same region lawmakers are working to protect from offshore drilling.