In response to President Donald Trump’s announcement to permit offshore drilling along U.S. coastlines, Sen. Elizabeth Warren strongly condemned his plan while accusing the president of being “weak-kneed” and beholden to Big Oil, instead of the American people. Enumerating recent natural disasters and oil spills, Warren warned Trump that he will be held responsible for the economic and environmental impact caused by climate change and Big Oil’s dwindling safety regulations.
During a speech delivered on the Senate floor, Warren asserted on Thursday, “I rise today to discuss the Trump Administration’s recent proposal to expand offshore drilling to more than 90 percent of U.S. waters. This handout to Big Oil executives puts short-term corporate profits ahead of the long-term health and livelihood of America’s coastal families and ignores the growing threat posed by climate change.”
“This Administration is too weak-kneed to stand up for American families, too weak-kneed to say ‘enough is enough’ when Big Oil executives demand more. And Big Oil executives keep demanding more, because they don’t like being told any area is off-limits.
“Big Oil didn’t like being told that the extraordinary natural, cultural, and historical value of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante made them off-limits for fossil fuel development. So, President Trump opened up much of the previously protected land for future drilling and mining.”
Besides allowing Big Oil to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Trump administration has issued a proposal to allow offshore drilling along more than 90% of U.S. coastal waters. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently gave Florida an exemption after Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott objected to the plan.
“Our coasts are working waterfronts supporting hardworking families,” Warren continued. “This unprecedented expansion of offshore drilling endangers hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on the health of our oceans. In Massachusetts, there’s shipping in and out of Boston, fishing from Gloucester to New Bedford, and tourism and small businesses on the Cape and the Islands. The ocean is our lifeline, as it is for so many coastal states and towns around the country. The multi-billion-dollar coastal economy has been a key part of the American economy since our nation’s founding.
“Our coastal communities are united in opposition to an expansion of offshore drilling. They understand the risks that Big Oil imposes on them.”
Warren reminded her colleagues of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that caused the deaths of 11 workers, while injuring 17 others. In addition to contaminating the coastline and killing millions of birds and marine animals, the Gulf fishing industry lost thousands of jobs and devastated the tourism economy.
“A commission formed to investigate the BP Oil Spill concluded that there were ‘such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire [offshore drilling] industry,’” Warren noted. “The federal government vowed to crack down on the offshore drilling industry that had been cutting corners at the expense of worker safety and environmental safety. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement studied ways to improve oil rig inspections and issued new rules of the road to try to prioritize safety.
“But President Trump has abandoned that safety-first approach. He ignores the lessons of the BP oil spill, instead he listens to his Big Oil friends. Last month the Administration began rescinding key safety regulations designed to protect our coastlines from another BP-scale disaster.”
Instead of enforcing current safety standards, Trump has repeatedly supported deregulation that could lead to further man-made disasters. As temperatures rapidly increase and sea levels continue to rise, the addition of oil rigs places many more communities at risk.
“The Trump Administration’s insistence on padding the pockets of Big Oil while small coastal towns are left carrying all the risk is a perversion of how government is supposed to work. But this is what happens when the Republican Senate allows leadership positions at the Department of the Interior to be filled with industry insiders who reward their past and – in many cases – their future employers, rather than serving the American people.”
On Thursday, Sen. Maria Cantwell accused Secretary Zinke of potentially violating the requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act by exempting Florida for purely political reasons while punishing Democratic states along the U.S. coastlines. In a letter to Zinke, Cantwell wrote, “It also suggests you are more concerned with politics than proper process when it comes to making key decisions that affect our coastal communities.”