Today's arguments being made by the Offshore Oil Industry about proposed new exploration and drilling leases off the Atlantic coast remind me of the Bill Murray movie 'Groundhog Day' where everything keeps repeating itself. Their insistence about safer new drilling technologies, tens of thousands of local jobs and how oil is compatible with environmental protection, tourism, fishing and other coastal activities sounds like the exact echo of the arguments we heard in California in the 1980s, the last time the Feds tried to open up large swaths of coastal waters to drilling. Of course these 'get rich quick at no cost' claims are as fallacious today as they were 30 years ago. Like the happy ending of Groundhog Day however the growing opposition to proposed lease sales up and down the Atlantic coast also reminds me of the popular uprising that defeated the Reagan Administration's attempt to drill off the West Coast. It's all about the love, of the existing beaches and coastlines where people live, work and play.
In just the last few weeks this new wave of opposition has grown even larger, from protests in New Jersey led by the state's two U.S. Senators, to the number of coastal towns and cities where resolutions against offshore drilling have passed (over 100). Following up on last May's Blue Vision Summit Hill Day where delegations from 24 states lobbied Congress against any new offshore drilling, the marine conservation group Oceana held a coastal summit and lobby in D.C. in January with several hundred East Coast activists, outspoken mayors and celebrities like Ted Danson and Kate Walsh. Last week was the Surfrider Foundation's turn, with a third round of citizen lobbying against oil drilling that included recreational ocean users and a surfboard signed by 1,000 beachfront businesses. Earlier this month Environment America, 350.Org and other groups presented the White House with a petition signed by 2 million people calling on the Obama administration to pull the plug on offshore drilling when it releases its latest iteration of it's 5-year leasing plan some time in March.
Still, the decision on whether it's finally time to end fossil fuel development in U.S. waters will likely be up to the next president. Will the 2016 candidates address offshore oil drilling? It seems that anti-drilling forces are making them do just that as reported in a January 21st McCatchy story on the upcoming South Carolina primary.
Based on this and other sources we've compiled the following updated list on where the remaining Presidential Candidates stand:
Hillary Clinton: In a December interview said she's "very skeptical about the need or the desire for us to pursue offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina'' or other Southeastern states.
At a campaign event on February 9 asked if she would "stop oil drilling in the Arctic, the Atlantic, and the Gulf?" she replied, "I've already said that I will stop it in the Arctic and the Atlantic."
• Clinton's position appears to have gotten firmer against offshore drilling (Grist reported in February)
Bernie Sanders: Sanders has said he would block all offshore oil and gas development.
• Sanders' position appears to have not changed
Jeb Bush: Bush supports offshore drilling, but as Florida governor he fought to keep it off his state's coast. Then a few years later, he supported a bill that would open much more of the Gulf including off of Florida, while providing a 125-mile buffer. His record could cause problems on the campaign trail.
• Bush's position appears to have not changed
Dr. Ben Carson: Asked his position on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Dr. Carson responded:
"As we intelligently tap our own resources, we must doggedly pursue other energy sources."
• Carson's position is unclear
Ted Cruz: Cruz introduced recent legislation that would give "deference" to coastal states to determine whether to approve drilling. "He proposes to allow increased drilling," said a spokesman.
• Cruz's position appears to have not changed
John Kasich: He has said, "I'm definitely not opposed to it, but you've gotta do it the right way."
• Kasich's position appears to have not changed
Marco Rubio: Rubio would permit more offshore oil and gas drilling, which President Obama has already expanded.
• Rubio's position appears to have not changed
Donald Trump: Trump's campaign has not taken an official position on the issue. However, his previous statements indicate he would support expanded offshore drilling. Then in a Feb. 13 interview Trump said "It would be a little bit of a shame (to expand drilling closer to Florida), because there's so much fracking, and there's so much oil that we have now that we never thought possible. That's an issue I'd absolutely study and do the right thing."
• Trump's position appears to have changed slightly
For all the latest on the continuing battles to stop offshore oil drilling and related climate and pollution stories check out the Sea Party 2016 Facebook page with it's daily breaking news as Sea Party citizen activists aim to educate the public this election year to vote the coast and restore the blue in our red, white and blue.