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Offshore oil drilling is a major threat to US waterways

Plans to open up waterways for oil and gas mining are causing justified concerns from environmentalists.

As 2017 came to a close, the new year was welcomed with great concern for coastal waterways across the U.S. Beach residents and environmental activists are fighting to keep offshore drilling away from beaches. 

The Donald Trump administration released a draft plan to open up nearly all waterways across the U.S. for oil and gas drilling, putting beach natives, tourism-dependent economies and the environment at risk.

While the fossil fuel industry met the plan with optimism and excitement, environmental organizations and beach residents are in opposition. 

The newly proposed oil drilling plan appears to be ignoring the voices of thousands of beach residents, environmental activists, coastal businesses and the many people involved in beach tourism economies. Protecting the nation’s resources and acknowledging the voices of Americans should be a main priority for policymakers.

While the administration is implementing the plan in hopes to use our own country’s oil resources, policymakers must consider the preservation of our own natural areas and keeping tourism economies thriving.

The New York Times reports the plan will make Pacific waters off of California, Atlantic waters neighboring Maine and the Gulf of Mexico available for fuel extraction and oil drilling. The plan includes a total of 47 auctions. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, said this is the largest number of auctions ever proposed for oil drilling and this plan will make the U.S. an energy dominant nation. 

The administration’s plan is undoubtedly one of the most threatening for waterways to date. There has been nearly 9 million gallons of crude oil that has spilled into U.S. waterways since 2010, and 1,300 oil spills, as reported by Business Insider. If all 47 of the auctions takes place, more detrimental oil spills are inevitable.

The plan was also met with proposed rollbacks of safety rules that were implemented in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 people and caused irreversible damage to ocean environments. The proposed rollbacks of these safety rules paired with the drilling plan would open up a door for inevitable catastrophes. 

When former president Barack Obama proposed the opening of coastal waterways for drilling, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested the idea and petitioned local, state and federal officials to say no to coastal drilling. The Atlantic and Arctic waters were therefore removed from a list of potential oil drilling sites, and the Obama administration cited “significant potential conflicts with other ocean uses.”

One of the areas that would take a major hit from this potential plan is the U.S. tourism industry. The tourism industry is one of the U.S.’ greatest contributors to the economy, bringing in over $1.2 trillion to GDP annually, as reported by Statista research company. Statista also predicts that number to double to $2.6 trillion by 2027. With the implementation of oil rigs and offshore drilling plans to many U.S. waterways, the popularity of many coastal attractions will undoubtedly decrease. 

“Oil and gas exploration is opposed by governors from New Jersey to Florida, nearly a dozen attorney generals, more than 100 U.S. lawmakers and the Defense Department,” as stated by the Washington Post.

While the controversial plan is not yet finalized, it must be protested heavily if the beautiful coasts of the U.S. are to be maintained. Blatant disregard of public uproar is unacceptable, and protecting our country’s environment and natural resources should be of the utmost priority to policy makers.


Samantha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.