The political landscape seems to be shifting in response to BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. An overnight poll of Florida residents shows a remarkable shift in public opinion on the value of oil drilling off of their coast. Are these results at all surprising since Floridians are seeing the approaching slick to their heralded beaches? Let’s put it in the context of the previous Florida oil storm, which came in the manner of a multi-million dollar lobbying onslaught by a secret group of out-of-state oil companies in late 2008 and through 2009. This secret cabal was so careful about hiding their indentities that their names are still unknown to Florida citizens despite creating a debate that was on the front pages for months. What a difference an exploding oil platform makes. Now, the Democrats in the state legislature are urging a vote for a state constitutional amendment to ban offshore oil drilling. Gov. Crist is leaning their way.
On the Left Coast, the Governator had a more direct conversion and made one of the more prescient observations since the Great BP Gulf Eruption. “Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?,” he asks. “Why indeed?,” responds Rep. John Garamendi who wasted no time in putting his money where his mouth is by introducing federal legislation to permanently ban new oil and gas drilling along the entire west coast. Garamendi won a special election this spring and may be a freshman, but he’s been around the block and knows his oil. He served as deputy secretary of the Department of Interior during the Clinton administration and as Lieutenant Governor of California where he nixed the silly drilling for cash ploy by Plains Exploration and Production oil company.
Back on the Jersey Shore long-time drilling opponents Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, along with Congressman Frank Pallone, are looking at similar legislation to ban drilling in the mid-Atlantic region. Our own New England environmental champions Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. John Kerry were never shy about protecting our beloved Georges Bank and Stellwagen Bank from drilling even at the peak of the Bush era clamor to eliminate the 20 year moratorium. Unfortunately, the final legislation was never passed and New England’s ocean is still one bad administrative decision away from a return to the failed drilling proposals of the past. The politics of drilling flow like the motion of the ocean itself with the fate of the K-(G)-L climate legislation. Drilling, billions for nukes, a legislated override of a Supreme Court decision to allow regulation of climate pollution and promises, promises to herd in a stray Republican vote are all now up in the air. Sen. Kerry says the proposed legislation will be unveiled on Wednesday. Here’s hoping the proposed oil drilling provisions in that bill have been subject to the same moment of clarity that have awakened millions of Americans. We need climate protection legislation without adding to the oil-carbon disaster.