Next Monday, April 20, will mark 10 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, followed two days later by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — the same year a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. awakened a consciousness among Americans about what we stand to lose when fossil fuel extraction goes horribly wrong.
As we approach these milestone dates since the BP gulf disaster, the Santa Barbara oil spill and Earth Day, we want to point out the folly of lax federal environmental regulations and permitting, the continued promotion of the fossil fuel industry, including the proposed LNG pipeline and export terminal at Coos Bay and the federal offshore drilling proposal, all of which could hamper efforts to successfully build a thriving and sustainable post-COVID economy for Oregon.
The stay-at-home orders and business closures resulting from the pandemic show two things: 1) how much Oregonians value nature, like our world-class coast, and 2) the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and rebound of businesses from seafood restaurants to tourist hotels, which are both intrinsically linked — and always have been — to clean beaches and a healthy ocean.
While our nation is focused on the pandemic, the Trump administration continues its push to undermine environmental protection rules that have long safeguarded Oregon’s public health, natural resources and our jobs that depend on a healthy environment. The EPA is allowing polluting industries to self-regulate, and the White House recently wrapped up a controversial public comment process to roll back key provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act.
While our country hurls toward an economic recession, with thousands and thousands of Oregonians having lost their jobs in the last several weeks and worrying about food and rent, the Trump Administration is offering to cut royalty rates for the oil and gas companies, one of the wealthiest industries on the planet. The very same businesses on Oregon’s coast that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — Oregon’s fishing, tourism, recreation and restaurant industries — have all spoken out many times over the last couple of years about their fear of devastating losses. For example, if reckless policies like offshore drilling led to a major oil spill occurring on our coast, or disregard for Oregon’s objection to Jordan Cove LNG led to another New Carissa catastrophe in Coos Bay.
As we mark Earth Day’s 50th anniversary and the BP gulf spill 10-year memorial, our vision for a healthy and sustainable post-COVID Oregon economy includes stronger, not weaker protections for the environment that supports coastal jobs, cultures and livelihoods and a healthy ocean.
Submitted by Charlie Plybon, policy manager for Surfrider Foundation Oregon.