Giving Florida a Break
Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 24, 2020
Despite a history of oil leaks, it’s good for the United States to drill off-shore for oil anywhere along the American coastline to maintain energy independence, says Donald Trump, president.
Except, now off Florida, which just happens to be his new home state and an identifiable electoral battleground for November. No, on second thought, that west coast facing the Gulf of Mexico needs to be protected, says the same Donald Trump, candidate.
And let’s now except Georgia and South Carolina, where Democrats seem to be faring better than expected in election polling.
For a president willing to drill in national parks and previously declared environmentally fragile waters, all of a sudden the waters off southeastern U.S. states whose votes are important to Trump are prospects to be saved.
Could this possibly be electoral hypocrisy at work? Have we captured one of those natural moments in the wild?
“It’s an order that does so much for the state of Florida,” Trump said this week in remarks in Jupiter, Fla., where beaches would suffer from an oil leak of the kind we’ve seen from British Petroleum and other rigs. “This protects your beautiful Gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come.”
It is an executive order so scientifically logical, so eco-friendly, so in tune with preserving the local tourism business that, as a voter, you might wonder why it does not apply to the next state, too. Virginia, for example, has been seeking such an exemption from drilling. Oh, that state has a Democratic governor and is leading blue.
Can’t preserve that coastline, can we, Mr. Trump?
Environment, Jobs or Politics?
Democratic opponent Joe Biden jumped on the obvious, that Trump might be acting out of political expediency rather than environmental concern.
Biden has proposed banning new leasing on all federal waters and lands — not just those off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
A ban on oil exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico will put Trump at odds with the oil and gas industry, normally his political ally. That area is one they have lobbied for the right to drill, just as in previously protected areas of Alaska.
In 2006, Congress imposed a moratorium on oil leasing in the eastern Gulf. But that ban expires in 2022. In 2018, The Trump administration unveiled a controversial proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic, where local officials have pressed for it, and along the Atlantic coast, where oil and gas exploration is opposed by both Republican and Democratic governors.
State lawmakers, mayors and city councils along the Atlantic coast tried to stop the administration’s plan to lift any moratorium, and the Trump White House’s initial proposal to open all waters for drilling stalled under legal pressure. Then Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican Trump ally, got Trump to back off from Florida, drawing criticism from neighboring states, and a federal judge in early 2019 ruled that Trump’s revocation of a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans was illegal, saying Congress would need to step in to reverse the earlier ban.
That was then. Now we have an election to win.
Executive Orders Rule the Day
So, another day, another executive order. Why bother with Congress?
Trump’s announcement this last week about Florida, Georgia and South Caroline was part of a speech in which Trump portrayed himself as a fierce protector of America’s natural resources and a steward of the environment.
That would be laughable if it were not so sad.
From continuous denial of climate disruption to insisting that the cure to wildfires across California is raking leaves to rule changes to make it easier for companies to pollute water and air, this administration has prided itself with a record of eliminating regulations to promote business growth across the board.
“Environmental protection is a sacred obligation,” said Trump, who referred to himself as a “great environmentalist.” He noted how he had signed a bipartisan bill to tackle a maintenance backlog at national parks and fund conservation efforts, overseen the cleanup of dozens of the country’s most polluted sites, revamped regulations aimed at reducing lead in drinking water, and backed a global effort to plan a trillion trees.
Importantly, Trump has bolstered the fossil fuel industry, criticized renewable technologies such as wind power and moved to withdraw the United States from an international effort to cut greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.
Excuse the sarcasm, but the only thing expanding exponentially is an odious environment of political, self-serving blather.