Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State and a bipartisan group of 16 West Coast lawmakers have demanded that President Trump and Secretary Ryan Zinke keep their "hands off our coast."
Taking the Senate floor today, Cantwell spoke out against the GOP's "egregious" plan to dramatically increase offshore oil and gas development.
"Mr. President I've come to speak today about the Trump administration's egregious attack on our pristine coastline in the Pacific, the Atlantic, Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico," she said in a stream provided by CNET.
In January, the Trump administration proposed a controversial plan that would dramatically expand offshore drilling even in protected areas. Department of Interior Secretary Zinke said the drilling plan illustrated "a new path for energy dominance in America."
Cantwell had a different way of describing it. She called the plan an "unprecedented attempt to allow oil and gas drilling in over 90 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, including the Washington and Oregon coastlines."
Other critics of the decision, including both Republicans and Democrats, say increasing offshore drilling will threaten coastal economies across the U.S. and will put our oceans, coasts and marine wildlife at great risk.
"We know that oil spills or other natural disasters related to offshore activities… can disrupt entire coastal economies," said Cantwell. She explained that if the Deepwater Horizon spill were to happen in the pacific northwest, it would jeopardize huge swathes of the environment.
All this for the sake of economic advancement - but even that is contentious.
"The truth is, that instead of creating more jobs in the oil and gas sector, the administration is posed to choose big oil jobs over other ocean-dependent industries, including fishing, ship building and tourism on our coast," Cantwell said.
The economic benefits of ocean-dependent industries in the U.S. cannot be overstated. In America, ocean-related industries bring in $74.8 billion in wages, they provide 2.2 million direct jobs and they add $152.5 billion in GDP. In Washington State alone, the maritime economy provides $50.3 billion in economic activity and 191,1000 jobs.
But the Trump administration doesn't want to hear it. Cantwell accused Zinke of resorting to "political games" after he suddenly and inexplicably postponed a public meeting that was supposed to take place in Tacoma, Washington. The meeting was a chance for residents to voice their opinion on the new drilling plan, but Cantwell said she has heard no word about a reschedule.
"Our coastal economies are too important to us from a jobs and cultural perspective to go about even proposing the research on drilling in our coastal areas," she said.
To be fair, the administration is listening to some states - or at least, one state. Cantwell explained that while Washington turned over data to the administration that clearly illustrated why offshore drilling would be detrimental to the region, Florida failed to do the same and was the only coastal state given an exemption.
"Well, Mr. President it seems to me maybe, just maybe, the only difference between Florida and and every other coastal city... is that President Trump happens to have beach front property in Florida," said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware in his speech.
The new plan is not only dangerous for the economy and the environment, it also places workers at greater risk. That's because just last month Secretary Zinke made the unfathomable decision to reverse basic safety regulations for offshore oil and gas workers.
"What you've got here is a double whammy. First gut safety standards for oil and gas workers on offshore rigs," said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.
"Second increase the possibility that these workers are going to be put in danger in the first place."
It's a recipe for disaster, and citizens aren't staying silent. Protests against the expansion have erupted in coastal cities across the country, drawing hundreds of concerned residents from Delaware, Santa Cruz, Salem, Tacoma and Sacramento to name a few.