No one expected good news from the Trump administration’s first proposed plan for offshore drilling, but this? The malicious ambition of the plan that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released last week proved that the shamelessness of these people can still shock us. How much of our coastline did the plan propose to open up to drilling? Virtually all of it. All of the West Coast. All of the East Coast. All of the Gulf of Mexico. And almost all of Alaska (which must have been some kind of oversight). “Under President Trump, we are going to become the strongest energy superpower the world has ever seen,” Zinke somehow said with a straight face. “World’s biggest super polluter” is a more accurate description of this administration’s vision.
In case you had any lingering doubts, this plan confirmed that Trump and his administration are prepared to do anything for the sake of fossil fuel polluters, and there is nothing they won’t put at risk in the process. That they don’t care about protecting our climate wasn’t news. What this plan showed, though, was how little they care about anything else. They are ready to put our entire coastline at risk. The potential environmental and economic devastation are incalculable and, frankly, unthinkable. That’s why the ink wasn’t dry on this plan before it started getting pushback from coastal states and communities, not to mention politicians from both political parties.
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 fossil fuel apologists fell back on their mantra that they should be allowed to keep drilling as long as they did it “responsibly.” (Polluters love to talk about responsibility but they never accept it once the inevitable occurs. Suddenly, whatever happened was an “accident.”) Give the Trump administration some credit, though: They’re all in on drilling whether it’s done responsibly or not. The safety protections that were enacted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster? They want to get rid of them. These blockheads aren’t content to tempt fate ― they want to punch it in the face.
Ironically, the only good thing about this plan is how terrible it is. For an administration that has made a specialty of advancing deeply unpopular policies, this one stands out. People hate it, especially people who live in coastal communities (which is a lot of people of all political persuasions). By releasing something this out-of-touch with the values of most Americans, Trump is putting politicians in his own party in a tough spot by forcing them to choose between his extreme agenda and the wishes of their own constituents.
Florida’s embattled Republican governor, Rick Scott, who has national political ambitions beyond his current office, was the first Republican to successfully rebel. Within a week, he got Zinke to announce that Florida would be yanked from the plan in order to protect its beaches and tourism industry (not to mention the endangered political future of its governor). But by doing so, Zinke further undermined the already shaky credibility of his agency’s plan. The Administrative Procedure Act requires that agency actions have a reasonable rationale and not be “arbitrary and capricious.” Removing just one state from an offshore drilling plan just days after releasing it with no real explanation seems like the definition of “arbitrary and capricious.” Why suddenly recognize the value of Florida’s coastal economy but ignore that of every other coastal state? Nearly every other coastal governor has already objected to this plan.
Actions have consequences, and not just in Florida. The American people have the moral measure of this administration and its enablers in Congress. Denying climate science, attacking the Clean Power Plan, drastically shrinking the boundaries of national monuments, abandoning the Paris climate agreement, gutting clean air, clean water, and clean car standards ― these aren’t policies the American public wants (which is reflected in Trump’s dismal approval ratings).
Ultimately, the greatest repercussions of this outrageous plan ― which must never be allowed to become reality ― will be felt in the reckoning to come this November.