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Brief #34—Environment

In 2010, after the deadliest and most expensive offshore oil spill in U.S. history, the “Deepwater Horizon” spill, former U.S. president, Barack Obama, implemented a policy to ensure that a conservation council would advocate conservation and sustainable use of US waters. The Bureau of Ocean management called Obama’s policy, “the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history,” as the policy sought to effectively protect large bodies of water from environmental hazard such as oil spills. President Trump is now rolling back that plan with an executive order in order to “[roll] back excessive bureaucracy created by the previous administration.” In the new policy, states will be given much more authority on how to manage offshore oil and gas drilling, while also being able to prioritize regional business interests first and foremost. This comes as a massive rollback to the Obama-era plan, which had sought to limit where and how energy companies could drill for offshore energy.

The impact of the Trump administration’s decision to rollback Obama-era ocean protections are as significant as they are dangerous. The policy allows states to prioritize business interests in natural resource extraction over conservation, which makes it likely for states to engage in this practice in order to bolster their individual economies, which too will widen pathways to further destruction. As climate scientists have proven, damage to the ocean—otherwise known as the world’s largest ecosystem—only reduces its possibility to remove carbon from the atmosphere and generate oxygen for living organisms, the supply of which is vital to human survival. The rollback, too, comes on the heels of FEMA ending funding for more than 1,700 Puerto Ricans and Americans displaced by Hurricane Maria, a disaster which occurred as a consequence of climate change, and made catastrophic by insufficient policy provisions. More still, a recent book put forward by climate reporter, Elizabeth Rush, suggests that as sea levels rise, Florida is at risk being flooded, a scenario which would wipe out and/or force its population to migrate outside of the state. The potential scenario in Southern California’s coastal communities does not fare much better, as scientists anticipate losing 130 feet of sea-cliffs as water levels rise. Despite this, it does not appear that the Trump administration intends to prioritize the environment in future policy-making decisions, already proposing to rollback another Obama-era policy protecting smaller enclaves of water from pollution. Let’s hope that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort club in Florida won’t have to flood in order for his administration to review its environmental priorities.

Engagement Resources:

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – a charity collective of lawyers and scientists who defend and protect the environment from pollution and corporate greed.
  • Marine Megafauna Foundation – a marine research group that brings scientific discovery to the government and the public in order to create effective environmental protections.

This brief was compiled by Zoe Stricker. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact zoe@USResistnews.org

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