The comment period on a plan by the Trump administration to undo Obama-era protections for the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans ends this week. President Trump has vowed to take steps to reopen the ocean territories to oil and gas drilling, saying it would boost the economy and expand America’s energy potential.
But, what it will do to wildlife and the environment is causing concern for coastal defender Mike Gibaldi with the Miami chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. He cites the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 as what could happen off Florida’s coast.
“Water moves, wind blows, storms come ashore,” he says. “Anything that’s off or near Florida could potentially bring oil to my family’s beach, up the whole coast.”
In a poll late last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council and League of Conservation Voters, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed say they would support permanently protecting the Arctic and Atlantic coasts.
The managing attorney for Earthjustice’s oceans program, Steve Mashuda, says it’s not worth the risk.
“The harm that would be caused by an oil spill, any kind of industrial development of that scale in these waters is counterproductive for the economy that exists along the Atlantic coastline today,” he explains.
Mashuda says carbon pollution already is damaging the coastline because global warming is causing the water levels to rise. The threat to wildlife is extreme as well.
“The seismic airgun surveys which are currently proposed for a vast swath of the Atlantic coast, these surveys are incredibly devastating to marine mammals in particular, but also to fish and the zoo plankton that form the base of the food chain,” he notes.
Acting Assistant Interior Secretary Kate MacGregor says under the Obama administration, 94 percent of the outer shelf was off limits to development, despite interest from state and local governments and industry leaders. She adds the Trump administration is dedicated to energy dominance.
To submit comments visit https://www.boem.gov/Public-Engagement-Opportunities/.
By Veronica Carter
Public News Service – FL
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