10 Mar The Trump administration’s proposal to permit oil drilling off the coast of Maine is short-sighted and irresponsible
For 45 years I have opposed coastal drilling – not because I’m anti-development but because as a scientist and marine environmentalist I’ve documented the damage caused by oil spills. Those spills include a tanker explosion (Puerto Rican, San Francisco, 1984), a tanker grounding (Exxon Valdez, Alaska, 1989), a tanker collision with a bridge (Julie N, Portland, 1998), and a production well blowout (Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, 2010).
The offshore production and transportation of oil are inherently risky undertakings with high probabilities of releasing oil to the marine environment. Oil spills can be “remediated” but not undone. They bring sickness and death to marine organisms, serious and sometimes irreversible damage to critical habitats, and economic devastation to the people who depend on those marine resources for their food and livelihood.
Much of Maine’s already challenged economy depends on its scenic beauty and pristine waters. Tourism and fishing, especially for lobster, could be damaged, even permanently, by one significant spill. Consider the impact of a spill among the islands and small towns of Penobscot Bay and its lobster-dependent families to understand that the risks far outweigh the benefits of a few more barrels of oil.
No matter what the industry tells you, drilling and tanker accidents are inevitable. And the Trump administration will make this problem worse as it slashes safety and environmental regulations. But the fact remains: around the world, renewable energy is replacing petroleum. That’s because the rest of the world accepts the scientific fact that human-produced greenhouse gases are responsible for serious climate change.
We simply don’t need the oil, especially since it risks the Maine we know and love.
Michael Herz is former San Francisco Baykeeper, past member of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission following the Exxon Valdez spill, past member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oil Spill Dispersants, past chair and current board member of Friends of the Earth, U.S., and board member of the Conservation Law Foundation. He moved to Maine 25 years ago where he has continued his marine and coastal environmental work.