My friend Hugh Kaufman, who’s worked for the EPA since its inception in 1970, sent a chilling email yesterday:
“When does oil drilling off the Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket shores begin?
‘In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration has ordered the local commission that advises the Cape Cod National Seashore to suspend its meetings until further notice, the first such decree since the 40-mile preserve was founded in 1961.
The [Trump] order has raised fears that the administration could disband the commission or pack it with new appointees, potentially undermining the sanctuary’s conservation efforts and other environmental protections.'”
As commission chairman Richard Delaney put it: “The news came as a shock….We’ve never had this happen before, even when other administrations went through transitions.” According to the Boston Globe, “The pause gives Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke time to review the ‘charter and charge’ of the Cape Cod commission and similar bodies….The order affects more than 200 similar federal advisory bodies across the country.”
For someone like myself who’s fought alongside other fishermen and conservationists to protect the striped bass, bluefin tuna, and other species that migrate along the Cape seashore, this is a call to arms. Less than a week before, the Washington Post reported that Trump is likely to issue an executive order telling the Interior department to reverse the decision made by Obama last December for withdrawal of hundreds of millions of offshore acres in the Atlantic and Arctic from any future oil and gas drilling.
This follows on the heels of a March 28 executive order from Trump, instructing those in charge of all federal agencies to “review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”
There’s been no drilling allowed off the Atlantic Coast since the early 1980s. Trump’s plans threaten to destroy ecosystems, coastal economies, and the marine heritage that has been our nation’s birthright since the Pilgrims landed and managed to survive when Native Americans taught them about the abundant striped bass passing along the coast.
Not only is this administration on the verge of dumping the government’s Chesapeake Bay Program that seeks to preserve the primary spawning area for fish like the bass, it’s ready to jeopardize the entire New England coastline, and beyond. A spill on the level of the BP Gulf oil disaster could affect beaches from Savannah all the way to Boston. So long, too, to thousands of humpback whales, swordfish, and sea turtles.
On May 3, a host of environmental groups represented by attorneys at the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ability to overturn the Obama administration’s permanent ban on drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic. Their joint statement stated Trump’s move “could open up more than 120 million acres of ocean territory to the oil and gas industry, affecting 98 percent of federal Arctic Ocean waters and 31 biologically rich deepwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Probably seeing the handwriting on Trump’s wall, Obama had invoked the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in putting a permanent stop to future drilling there. The Act does not authorize a future president to try and reverse it, meaning Trump would be overstepping the law. And the courts seem to be our last bastion of defense against the Trump onslaught.