There seems to be quite a fight brewing over the Trump administration’s recent edict regarding the offshore oil industry’s future.
Federal officials announced the administration intended to open nearly all U.S. waters, including huge areas of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration.
As one might reasonably expect, the announcement provoked a chorus of outrage from Democrats — and more than a handful of Republicans — who expressed concern about possible environmental and economic repercussions. You know, events like oil spills, the potential for serious harm to tourism, and the collateral damage to the marine creatures.
Many folks here on the Central Coast are familiar with all of the aforementioned negatives, and those who have been here for a few years likely will recall the 1969 Platform A blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel, which fouled South Coast’s picture-postcard-perfect beaches and was a major catalyst in the creation of Earth Day.
But it seems not all U.S. coastal regions are equal — at least not in the eyes of Trump administration officials. Shortly after Trump’s announcement about opening up offshore waters to drilling, Florida Gov. Rick Scott objected, lobbying Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to remove Florida from the offshore oil roster. A short time after Scott’s complaint, Zinke announced that Florida was off the hit list.
Not entirely by coincidence, Scott is near to being termed out as governor, and hinted that he will run for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson, a situation that cannot have escaped the notice of President Trump, who has made it clear he wants more Republicans in the Senate. Scott is a Republican.
All those facts are available to other coastal states’ governors, many of whom have publicly wondered why Florida gets a pass and their states don’t. As it turns out there are 11 coastal states whose governors are Democrats.
It’s a reasonable question, and one to which the Trump administration has yet to respond. Perhaps the administration is waiting for Republican leaders in coastal states to speak up, which, in fact, they are doing.
South Carolina’s GOP governor, Henry McMaster, has now requested the same consideration for his state, saying the administration’s argument that Florida’s coast needs protection because of its tourist magnetism also applies to South Carolina.
Most of the protests focus on the concept of states’ rights, the notion that a state’s voters should decide such matters.
This gets a bit sticky for the Trump administration, trying to weed out which states’ rights will be allowed, and which will not. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared war on states that have legalized marijuana use, both recreational and medicinal, in which voters made the call. It is a contradiction the administration has yet to directly address.
Some Republicans are toeing the administration’s line. Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, while critical of Trump’s decision to exempt Florida, proclaimed that oil rigs offshore “will not impact tourism …” Sen. Kennedy apparently is unaware of the Deepwater Horizon explosion off the shores of his state in 2010 that spewed oil along more than 1,300 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.
Californians are familiar with offshore oil operations, and as a general rule, they don’t like it. Our guess is they will like it even less now that the Trump administration appears to be conflicted over whose ox will be gored.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is that the president and his top associates don’t seem to have a firm grasp on policy matters, but instead choose a purely political path to decision-making.