Senator Carper Calls on the Trump Administration to #ProtectOurCoast

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, joined a number of his Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor to highlight the potentially devastating effects of the Trump Administration’s proposal to open parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, including off the coast of Delaware, and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration and drilling.

 Senator Carper’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleagues in opposition to the Trump Administration’s recent proposal to open up parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico to more oil and gas drilling. 

“I have long advocated for an all-of-the-above strategy to meet our country’s energy needs as we move our country toward greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.  In my view, though, the administration’s recent proposal to expand drilling off our coasts into new areas is unnecessary at this time.

“Just eight years ago, we saw very clearly with the Deepwater Horizon disaster that oil spills do not respect state boundaries and that the severe environmental and financial costs of oil spills last for generations. A spill anywhere along the east coast could easily affect our pristine Delaware beaches and our vibrant coastal communities that rely on fishing, tourism and recreational activities to drive their local economies. 

“Each year, Delaware’s coast generates $6.9 billion. Our beach communities, like Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, and surrounding areas support 59,000 jobs and $711 million in tax revenue. Delaware may be a small state, but coast-related activity is our big business – providing more than 10 percent of the First State’s total employment, taxes and business production. Jeopardizing the environmental and economic health of the entire Atlantic coast is the wrong move and is simply not worth the risk. But you don’t just have to take my word for it.  Experts, scientists and residents living in the communities that will be most impacted by this decision agree, especially as the threat of climate change continues to grow.

“Delawareans are similarly concerned about the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration activities, including the use of seismic testing air guns to search for offshore oil and gas deposits.  In August 2016, over 40 state and local elected officials in Delaware sent a letter to the Department of the Interior expressing their opposition to proposed seismic surveys. And their concerns are well founded. The negative impact of the oil and gas industry’s seismic testing on ocean ecosystems and the life they support – from plankton at the base of the ocean food chain all the way to whales at the top – is well documented.

“Despite the widespread opposition and the proof of harmful consequences, proponents of increased drilling will argue that offshore oil and gas development could present economic benefit in selected areas along the coast. But these areas are already the beneficiaries of greater economic benefits derived from and contingent on a healthy, vital and sustainable ocean environment off their shores. As a result, these communities do not take the prospect of compromising these natural resources lightly – nor should they.

“Mr. President, you know who also recognizes that coastal communities could be negatively impacted if their natural resources were compromised? Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In fact, that was the exact justification that Secretary Zinke used to carve Florida’s Gulf coast out of the Trump Administration’s proposal.  He pointed out that other states, like Louisiana for example, are “working coasts” that are “very much different than a recreation-centric coast that’s in Florida.” 

“Mr. President, it seems to me that, perhaps, the only real difference between Florida and every other coastal state that was not lucky enough to get this exemption from Secretary Zinke is that President Trump happens to have beachfront properties in Florida. And, believe me, I understand that a potential oil spill off the Florida coast would be bad for business at Mar-a-Lago and that the president and his guests probably don’t want the views from the resort obstructed by oil rigs offshore.  I understand because an overwhelming majority of Delawareans feel the exact same way. And their voices deserve to be heard too.

“But it’s not just Delawareans, or even just Democrats, who acknowledge that increasing oil drilling off our coasts is the wrong move. Republican governors and lawmakers from states like Georgia and South Carolina all the way up to Massachusetts and New Hampshire have publically stated their opposition to the Trump Administration’s plan because the risks are simply not worth the potential reward. If the administration insists on proceeding with this proposal, then it should carve out the cherished Delaware coast, and similar areas along the Atlantic, from any efforts to increase drilling.

“As they say, “what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.” In Florida, Secretary Zinke has clearly established the standard that should apply to any coastal areas that would be part of an offshore leasing plan: if it is an area in which coastal activities and industries yield greater economic value and where local communities are solidly opposed, then those areas should get the same exemption as Florida. This president is a businessman, and the numbers here are clear: increased drilling does not make economic sense. I urge President Trump to rethink this shortsighted proposal and to side with coastal residents from Maine to Miami.”