Climate Solutions Caucus pushes back on Trump’s offshore drilling plans
By Flannery Winchester
This week, President Trump dealt another blow to America’s environmental progress. The New York Times reported:
The Trump administration said Thursday it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard.
This drastic measure was met with immediate—and growing—outcry by many elected officials representing states and districts on the East Coast. Only one state governor on the Atlantic Coast, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, supports the proposed plan.
Opposition was also loud from at least 7 Republicans on the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and at least 20 members total. Caucus co-chair Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) was quick out of the gate with a response, saying “We do not want to put our environmental treasures at risk.”
Floridians have made it very clear We do not want #oildrilling near our shores, we do not want to put our environmental treasures at risk. @Interior has guaranteed states will ‘have a voice.’ Together with my colleagues, I will make sure Florida's voice is heard loud & clear https://t.co/C9UA3X5c2T
— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) January 4, 2018
Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania, also issued a statement calling the drilling unnecessary, thanks to the existing resources and increased capabilities of battery technology.
Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert said he was “deeply concerned” and released a statement which read, in part, “Our country is at the forefront of developing efficient and cost effective alternative energy technologies and we should continue to support innovation in this area. These energy solutions of the future must be a part of our energy plan.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) spoke up on behalf of his Long Island district, calling offshore drilling “unacceptable and counterproductive.”
I support an energy strategy that secures American energy independence and drives down costs. On Long Island, however, our waterways are our way of life, and drilling off of Long Island is unacceptable and counterproductive to the well-being of our communities.
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) January 5, 2018
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) issued a very clear statement, saying, “We will not tolerate drilling near our coast.”
Today’s announcement that DOI intends to open up drilling off Florida coast is extremely alarming & unacceptable. Moving forward, Secretary Zinke has indicated states will have voice in process. Our voice has been clear from start: we will not tolerate drilling near our coast.
— Rep. Brian Mast (@RepBrianMast) January 4, 2018
Even the newest Climate Solutions Caucus member, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) chimed in on Twitter to say that he is “100% opposed” to expanded offshore drilling.
In addition to speaking out on Twitter, caucus member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) announced that she would join Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in a letter to Secretary Zinke opposing any drilling expansion in Florida.
Signed @SenBillNelson letter to @SecretaryZinke @Interior opposing any opening of #Florida to offshore drilling in order to prevent a disaster similar to the #DeepwaterHorizon spill. I hope many more #Florida members join!
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) January 4, 2018
And of course, many of the caucus Democrats are opposed to the drilling as well. Co-chair Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) made this salient point:
With thousands of miles of coastline, Floridians have a lot to lose in this terrible decision. The Deepwater Horizon spill significantly hampered Florida’s tourism economy. We can’t risk another disaster like that. https://t.co/iqEHm3GIfg
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) January 4, 2018
Alongside him, caucus members Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-WA), Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NY), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) quickly spoke up in opposition. A few caucus Dems did not put out statements of their own, but clearly signaled their position: Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) retweeted this post from Senator Tim Kaine, and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) retweeted this one from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
While it remains to be seen if and when new offshore drilling could actually take place, one thing is clear: the surest way to get America’s federal climate policy back on track is for the Climate Solution Caucus to continue their bipartisan dialogue and introduce strong climate legislation—as soon as possible.