New Jersey and Delaware know full well the dangers of President Trump’s reckless plans to open their coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. Drilling activities endanger life on land and in the Atlantic Ocean. And, an accident would devastate the states’ tourism and fishing industries.
In their battle to protect the shore, both states would be wise to look to California, which is making itself ugly for the oil industry.
California state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is pushing a bill to ban pipelines running from the sea to the shore. States have control of the sea from the coastline to three miles out. Legislators from here should call Jackson for a copy of the bill. Also in California, 18 cities and nine counties have already banned construction of onshore oil terminals and pipelines without a public vote. Towns in New Jersey and Delaware can stop the industry from building infrastructure on the shore with zoning, health, and environmental codes that are designed to protect public safety.
California is ahead of the East Coast, in part, because it has a painful history with offshore drilling. In 1969, more than 3 million gallons of oil gushed out of a Union Oil rig off Santa Barbara, causing widespread devastation. The incident started the movement against offshore drilling that has kept the coasts safe from the dangers of offshore rigs.
But Gulf States had no such sense of caution and embraced an industry that handed them the worst offshore oil drilling accident in American history. Few can forget the explosion on the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers died and 4.9 million gallons of oil spewed into the sea killing marine plants and animals as well as over one million birds. The spill also shut down tourism and fishing in for months.
But Trump’s desire to help the fossil fuel industry choke out its last breaths of profit outweigh the risks. He’s even upping those risks by rolling back safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater accident.
Beyond rig accidents, the simple transport of crude endangers coastlines. In 2004, for example, a tanker hit a submerged anchor in the Delaware River and spilled 265,000 gallons of oil, polluting the shores of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
In a backhanded way, Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged the dangers when he exempted Florida, home to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort, from the drilling lease sale on Jan. 9.
The far better policy coming from Washington would be to encourage safe, clean, and cheap energy forms like wind, solar, and geothermal. They’re becoming economically competitive with oil and coal, which pollute the air and water. But that’s not on the horizon with this administration; that is why New Jersey Gov. Murphy and Delaware Gov. Carney, along with their respective legislatures and local governments, are the first line of defense against offshore drilling.
The states should tie up this threat to the shoreline with a giant bale of red tape and beach it.