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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

January 5: Trump Declares War on the Coasts, With More Offshore Drilling, Less Safety

It’s been a week of red meat for Trump’s base, but this item is upsetting many Republicans, as I discussed at New York:

[Today] the administration announced plans to reverse decades of restrictions on offshore oil and gas drilling at both ends of the country.

Worse yet, this drill-baby-drill directive coincides with separate administration efforts to get rid of regulations tightly mandating safety measures for oil rigs, including those adopted after the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The policy change announcement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was the first step in a review process mandated by Trump in an April 2017 executive order aimed at overturning an Obama administration five-year plan for coastal waters. “After taking public comments on the proposal, officials must revise it and put out a new proposal and then finalize it, a process that could take more than a year,” noted The Hill.

But the initial plan is sweeping in its scope, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the draft five-year leasing plan would commit 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to leasing, with 47 lease sales proposed in 25 of 26 areas off the nation’s coastlines between 2019 and 2024.”

Opposition from Atlantic states that would be affected by the new policies has been sharp and bipartisan. The Washington Post quotes Republican governors Larry Hogan of Maryland, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, and Rick Scott of Florida as joining Democratic governors John Carney of Delaware and Roy Cooper of North Carolina in opposing offshore drilling in the waters near their states. And the senator that Rick Scott may oppose this November, Bill Nelson, is planning to introduce a resolution to block the administration’s drilling-safety deregulation, using the same Congressional Review Act procedure that Republicans deployed to undo some of Obama’s final regulatory acts.

If the administration is serious about reopening wide-scale offshore drilling in California, this could represent a big political headache for Golden State Republicans who are struggling for survival. The leases Zinke is proposing would be the first for the California coast since 1984. And Trump’s original executive order, which didn’t mention California specifically, aroused all sorts of anger. According to the L.A. Times:

“Even the faintest possibility of new oil operations prompted an immediate backlash in the state as environmentalists feared ecological disaster, surfers warned of soiled beaches and politicians promised new measures to block any development.”

Don’t expect the president’s approval ratings to rise in coastal states any time soon, so long as this plan is in place.

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