It’s not good enough to allow offshore drilling expansion anywhere, let alone our treasured coast.
By Rev. Dr. Bill Gregory of Yarmouth, a retired Congregationalist minister
Portland Press Herald op-ed
YARMOUTH — Offshore drilling for oil and gas – as encouraged by two executive orders, one issued last year, the other last week – is shortsighted. We need forward-looking leadership to serve the common good, the health and well-being of all life on Earth.
Every person has a need for regular and healthy meals, safe housing, good medical care, a caring community and a healthy environment. These are central aspects of what we call “the common good.”
A just society would use economic expansion to assist its people in satisfying those needs and serving the common good. Instead, the Trump administration, with its obvious commitment to fossil fuel exploitation, including moves toward expanding coastal drilling, is abandoning both ecological preservation and the common good.
The goal of President Trump’s 2017 executive order is to expand offshore drilling for oil and gas throughout America’s public oceans. That includes the entire Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, along with permanently protected areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The Interior Department is soon to release its revised five-year leasing plan, which by all indications will still include large swaths of the Atlantic coastline and, potentially, the Maine coastline as well. Now is the time for leaders to lead and reject this dangerous proposal before it’s too late.
We need leadership that goes beyond the Trump administration’s shortsighted actions, celebrated by the American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association, whose pockets stand to be filled by drilling at the expense of the health and well-being of Mainers and residents of other coastal communities all the way from Alaska to Florida. They see only corporate dollars and discount marine life, ecological integrity and the value of local jobs and communities.
The oil industry already has stockpiled decades worth of leases. I was heartened to see Rep. Chellie Pingree make this point in her amendment to the Interior Department budget, which would have prevented federal funds from being used to implement the Trump administration’s offshore drilling expansion plan. Unfortunately, other members of Congress who supposedly oppose offshore drilling expansion off their own states failed to support Rep. Pingree’s amendment, increasing the likelihood that Maine and most of the American coastline will be threatened. This is the type of shortsighted leadership that we simply cannot afford.
Expanding offshore drilling ignores fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change, which drives extreme weather and brings health consequences that threaten all our communities and communities around the world. And it burdens coastal residents, ecosystems and local businesses with the pollution and the risk of oil spills.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has promised that Maine will be “very happy” with the revised offshore drilling proposal. But let’s be clear: Any expansion of offshore drilling will hurt Maine’s coast. Pingree’s amendment underscores that no state is safe until all are safe. No one should be fooled by offers to shield certain states. Mainers won’t be happy with a plan that authorizes drilling anywhere.
As we saw with the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill, oil coats the ocean floor, killing bottom feeders like lobsters and affecting ecosystems far beyond the initial spill point. Late last Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order repealing protections put in place by then-President Obama following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest marine spill in history. Those reforms called for stricter offshore regulatory measures meant to prevent future oil spills. If offshore drilling is expanded along our coast, it’s now likely to take place with fewer safety precautions.
Further, Maine cannot afford the added ocean acidification and sea-level rise that result from anthropogenic climate change. As stewards of God’s creation, it’s simply not good enough to allow offshore drilling expansion anywhere, let alone our treasured coast.
So starting major new projects like offshore drilling is unnecessary and at odds with serving the common good. Fossil fuel dependence is tearing apart the natural world and exacting horrific, multidimensional global warming costs on people around the world. Perpetuating this cycle is the opposite of visionary leadership.
Farsighted leadership demands we reject offshore oil and gas exploration – whether in the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Pacific or along any other coastline. True leadership calls for holding the line on fossil fuel development and instead prioritizing deeper investment in alternative, clean-energy sources. Maine’s future depends upon it.