Offshore Drilling and Stakeholders
On January 4, President Trump announced that his administration would allow offshore drilling for oil and natural gas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in addition to parts of the Arctic (Friedman 2018). Originally, George H. W. Bush protected these coastlines by instituting an offshore drilling ban, which President George W. Bush overturned in 2008 (Meyer 2018). Additionally, President Obama considered the same position as his successor; however, he decided to reinstate the ban after considering his administration’s stance on climate change and his previous positions on carbon emissions (Meyer 2018). Even though the Trump administration is the most powerful stakeholder in this situation, the governors and citizens of coastal towns are more proximate and interested. In this paper, I will use a stakeholder analysis to examine the most powerful, proximate, and interested stakeholders from the federal government to the state and local levels.
Two of the most powerful stakeholders in this situation are President Trump and the Interior Department. The President can allow or forbid any drilling along the United States’ coastlines and has the ability to instruct the executive branch departments to start or stop the process of mapping the oil reserves and granting leases for drilling (Friedman 2018). He needs to weigh the potential benefits and harms of offshore drilling because no one wants a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which occurred on a rig that was still in the explanatory phase (Meyer 2018). However in President Trump’s situation, he wants to keep his campaign promises and make the United States’ economy less reliant on foreign energy sources. President Trump instructs the Interior Department to estimate the profitability of oil reserves and decide if leases will be granted (Meyer 2018). The department also controls the timeline and process of how leases are given to drilling companies for rig locations (Meyer 2018). Because it is an executive department, it answers to the president and will follow his instructions unless Secretary Zinke does not believe that the benefits outweigh the harms. Within the first week of President Trump’s announcement, many governors asked the Interior Department to exempt their states from the executive order (Meyersohn 2018).
Many governors of coastal states are more proximate and interested stakeholders than the current administration. A majority of governors oppose the president’s order; however, six governors do support this position (Meyersohn 2018). Because of the states’ proximity to the ocean, they rely on commercial fishing and tourism to boost their economies, which would be harmed during an oil spill (Meyersohn 2018). In Maryland, an oil spill would reduce the numbers of lobsters; while in South Carolina, it could damage a $20 billion tourism industry (Meyersohn 2018). The governors who oppose the federal government’s stance on offshore drilling do not believe that the economic benefit from the potential of new business is worth the risk of their current economies. The governors have to worry about local economies and views of the issue by the state’s citizens. President Trump and the Interior Department are not directly affected by the impacts of this decision, and their re-elections do not depend on a single issue such as this unlike the governors. While most governors oppose this proposition, the citizens in coastal communities disapprove of President Trump’s decision more (Cooper 2018).
The stakeholders who are the most proximate and interested in this situation are the local coastal communities that will have to live with the decision that the federal government agrees upon. A majority of these towns have expressed the people’s oppositions to offshore drilling for oil and gas through city councils (Cooper 2018). Currently, the main concern for these towns is seismic testing (Cooper 2018). Most of the ocean floor along the Atlantic coast of the United States has not been mapped for oil and natural gas reserves since the mid-1980s, which means seismic testing will be conducted before leases can be sold (Meyersohn 2018). Citizens have a similar fear as the governors that this testing would harm the local economies by disrupting the local supply of seafood since the sound waves can disrupt migration patterns (Cooper 2018). Additionally, no one wants rigs and tugboats dominating the scenery of their hometown if reserves are found (Meyersohn 2018). Citizens and mayors alike worry that the oil companies would need to install pipelines and refinery complexes that would bring the potential for oil spills on the mainland and air pollution to these coastal communities (Meyersohn 2018). If something goes wrong, these people are the ones directly impacted by the executive branch’s decision, which makes them the most proximate and interested in the issue.
Even though President Trump and the Interior Department believe that the economic benefit will outweigh the threats of oil spills and disrupted economies, the other stakeholders, governors and coastal community citizens, believe that the harms outweigh the good. As the president moves forward with his plan, he will face an uphill battle with lack of public support in coastal communities and some outspoken Republican governors who do not want drilling along their coasts (Cooper 2018).
Cooper, Andrea. 2018. “The Southern Revolt Against Offshore Oil Drilling.” Sierra Club. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/feature/southern-revolt-against-offshore-oil-drilling (March 12, 2018).
Friedman, Lisa. 2018. “Trump Moves to Open Nearly All Offshore Waters to Drilling.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/climate/trump-offshore-drilling.html (March 12, 2018).
Meyer, Robinson. 2018. “Can Trump Open Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline to Oil Drilling?” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/trump-administration-coastline- oil-drilling/549800/ (March 12, 2018).
Meyersohn, Nathaniel. 2018. “Trump’s offshore drilling plan could hurt Maine lobsters and Maryland crabs.” CNNMoney. http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/31/news/trump-offshore-drilling/index.html (March 13, 2018).