Florida Democrat Congressman Charlie Crist, who tangled with proponents of offshore drilling during his term as governor, is now ready to keep federal protections implemented after the Deepwater Horizon spill in place.
On Monday, Crist will team up with two other congressional Democrats–Nanette Diaz Barragán of California and David Price of North Carolina to bring out the “Safe Coasts, Oceans, and Seaside Towns (COAST) Act” which will codify federal protections including the production safety systems rule which has outside auditors approved by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) inspect equipment and ensure pressure drillers are safe. Crist’s office insisted the U.S. Interior Department will weaken those safeguards as the Trump administration opens up opportunities for more offshore drilling.
At the end of last week, Crist showcased his record in office, including his experience with the Gulf oil spill, as one reason he was backing the legislation.
“I was Florida’s Governor when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The full extent of the environmental and economic damages of this tragedy are still unknown,” Crist said. “We should learn from past mistakes, not hand over the fate of our coasts and oceans to the oil and gas industry. These rules are vital to protecting our coastal communities from preventable disasters.”
“At a time when nearly all of America’s coastal waters have been placed on the table for increased oil and gas drilling, the Trump Administration has simultaneously taken steps to ease regulations such as these that govern the oil and gas industry,” said Barragán. “This would be an enormous mistake. Loosening these regulations increases the risk of a devastating oil spill, and threatens to upend the many thriving fishing, tourism, and recreation economies along the Pacific coast. Our bill ensures that safety regulators are not tasked with the concerns of promoting oil and gas development, and that corporate profits are not prioritized ahead of the health and safety of our coastal economies.”
“Although the disaster at Deepwater Horizon occurred only eight years ago, the oil and gas industry and their allies in Washington remain intent on undermining the very regulations designed to prevent a future environmental catastrophe of its kind,” said Price. “Our legislation puts the interests of American workers, coastal communities, and marine wildlife first, rather than prioritizing the pocketbooks of large oil corporations. It would ensure that carefully crafted regulations are protected from arbitrary executive actions that would seek to undermine safety and jeopardize our environment.”
A host of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, California League of Conservation Voters and the Animal Welfare Institute are backing the proposal.
Earlier this month, Crist published an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times calling for an amendment to the state constitution banning offshore drilling. Crist called a special session of the Legislature for that purpose in 2010 just after he left the GOP to run for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation. After losing to Republican Marco Rubio, Crist switched parties again, joining the Democrats in 2012.