Several weeks before President Obama made the tragic decision to approve expanded offshore drilling, ten costal-state senators wrote a letter [PDF] to their colleagues John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) pressing the trio to keep expanded offshore drilling out of their now floundering climate and energy package.
In the letter, the senators warned about the serious threats such drilling posed to their states’ coastlines:
While technological advances have attempted to lower the environmental and economic risks of drilling, experience has shown that no technology is foolproof. Since 1964 offshore operators have had 40 spills of greater than 42,000 gallons … Far from being a thing of the past spills occur with alarming frequency … Drilling near our coasts poses a severe risk to our states’ coastlines and in turn to our coastal communities.
As up to 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of crude oil a day rise from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig and make their way toward the Louisiana coast, the concerns expressed in that letter look more prescient than ever. As this spill drives home with frightening clarity, offshore oil drilling remains a dirty and catastrophically dangerous business — despite cynical and self-serving claims from Washington and the oil industry. The type of nightmare the senators warned of has tragically come to pass once again, with 11 workers killed and disastrous consequences for communities and ecosystems along a coastline already beset by the destructive forces unleashed by the burning of fossil fuels.
The incident also highlights the major flaws of the KGL approach to climate policy making. In order to build support for a bill that is supposed to protect the climate, they’ve had to give away the store to the very dirty energy interests whose products are destroying it. In order to stop the damage being done by fossil fuels, the senators are pushing for an expansion of their production. If it sounds kind of crazy, that’s because it is.
While it may be difficult and distasteful to see anything positive in a tragedy like this, the truth is this inevitable disaster couldn’t have happened at a more politically critical time — just as lawmakers were moving to codify the condemnation of our coastlines. In the same way that the Big Branch mining disaster caused elected officials to take a hard look at mining safety, one can only hope that the Deepwater Horizon spill will serve as the powerful wake-up call the president and Congress need to reverse the foolhardy course they have chosen regarding offshore drilling.
To make sure this happens, we need our coastal-state senators to be the voice of reason once again, and reiterate their critique of the unreason of the KGL-Obama approach to climate policy:
… we cannot support legislation that will mitigate one risk only to put our coasts at greater peril from another source.
Perhaps now there’s a chance the president and the Senate leadership will actually listen.