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Companies simply can’t guarantee a catastrophic spill won’t occur jeopardizing the livelihoods of coastal communities, a new report says.
The Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the coastline of 18 states home to 68 national parks, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Parks Conservation Association.
Issued jointly with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Spoiled Parks” details the damage catastrophic spills and potentially worsened climate change could do to fisheries, migratory pathways of whales and dolphins, and coastal communities in or near national parks.
More than 84 million visits were made to the national parks in 2017, and Democratic and Republican governors in 15 states oppose expanded leasing of federal offshore waters for drilling.
“Drilling off our coast is not the answer to our country’s energy independence,” said Robert Woodard, a Board of Commissioners chairman in Dare County, North Carolina.
North Carolina’s three coastal national parks account for $229.4 million in economic output, 2,773 jobs and 3.1 million annual visits, according to the report. All told, national parks in the coastal areas in question generated $4.6 billion in local, regional and national tourism in 2017.
Florida has the most national parks at risk with 11, followed by Alaska and California with 10 each.
Prior to President Trump taking office there were only 120 state and local resolutions against offshore drilling, but after he signed an executive order authorizing expansion that number jumped to 250.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said final expansion plans won’t be released until the fall. The administration has argued that increased oil production will make the country more energy independent.
Florida has already received an exemption and Maryland was ruled out because of its lack of energy resources.
National parks can never be fully protected from oil spills, especially with the Trump administration’s parallel agenda of deregulating the fossil fuels industry, said Mark Wenzler, NPCA senior vice president of conservation programs.
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.