Deja Vu…haven’t we learned yet?

DEEP WATER HORIZON spill, 2010. Haven't we learned, yet?

As the attentive know, the Trump Administration recently announced its plans to lift the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration along most the U.S. littorals.  Governor Scott of Florida was neither tardy nor bashful in asking Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to exempt Florida from the decision. Zinke subsequently acquiesced, stating:

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique, and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Not surprisingly, governors of other states and activists alike took exception to Zinke’s announcement, describing the administration’s decision as being partisan politics. Gov. Scott was an early Trump supporter and thought to be possible Senatorial candidate. One commenter online observed that “we can’t have Mr. Trump’s Mar a Lago being fouled by the next oil spill.”

Not surprisingly, governors of other states and activists alike took exception to Zinke’s announcement, describing the administration’s decision as being partisan politics. Gov. Scott was an early Trump supporter and thought to be possible Senatorial candidate. One commenter online observed that “we can’t have Mr. Trump’s Mar a Lago being fouled by the next oil spill.”

Governors of states not exempted are understandably miffed. But Governor Scott is right. Florida IS unique and there is no question that a spill in Florida would put a damper on tourism and be a disaster for the only existing coral reefs in the continental U.S.

Is it about tourism...or is it really about LIFE writ large?

But Florida’s uniqueness argument works pretty much everywhere else. What about the wetlands of the Carolinas and Georgia, or the Salmon havens of Oregon and Washington? The Salmon of the American Northwest are a keystone species. And the Sea Otters native to the northern California coast are still a threatened species.

And as a long-time surfer, I cringe at the thought of a repetition of the Santa Barbara spill of ’69. Though the well was capped after 11 days, an estimated 4.2 million gallons of crude eventually leaked out from ruptures in the nearby complex of faults, created NOAA speculates, by the well head blow-out.

Alert readers will not have missed the reference to leakage through fault systems, running along most of the Pacific  coast. Virtually everyone has heard of the San Andreas fault, but a quick glance at the USGS satellite photo with the faults superimposed should make everyone nervous about the notion of drilling off any portion of the California coast, to say NOTHING of hydraulic fracturing.

This same reluctance should absolutely apply to the Washington, Oregon and Alaskan coasts, insofar as they are also prone to seismic activity and (sometimes) spectacular volcanic activity. The suspension of oil and gas exploration on the west coast was sound for many reasons.

Sat photo of SoCal with fault lines (including off shore) superimposed.

This same reluctance should absolutely apply to the Washington, Oregon and Alaskan coasts, insofar as they are also prone to seismic activity and (sometimes) spectacular volcanic activity. The suspension of oil and gas exploration on the west coast was sound for many reasons.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that an administration interested in “bringing back coal” might be willing to ignore other lessons already learned. Or that the administration which allowed the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund tax on production to lapse might have an agenda other than the public’s best interest at heart.

There is some good news…and Republicans, as long-time advocates of States Rights should embrace. California is a state with a ballot initiative. I suspect most Californians would be willing to vote for an initiative establishing say, an exploratory tax on all companies wishing to do exploratory drilling here, together with a tax on every barrel they extract to be sequestered in a California-administered super fund to replace the one the federal government has allowed to lapse.

Some measures are necessary to counteract the foolish policy of the federal government. At some point, mankind must accept their stewardship for the one and only ecosystem we have. This is not optional. Call me a zero-growth, tree-hugger if you want, but thoughtful men and women already know the time has passed when we can pretend unlimited human growth is possible, much less desirable.

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