Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
It was President Donald Trump, self-styled superhero, who descended on Jupiter last week, swooping into the key election state of Florida to declare there would be no oil drilling off the Sunshine State’s coast until 2032.
The heroism was a sham. Remember, it was his own administration which said, in January 2018, that it planned to end an Obama-era moratorium on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Trump was rescuing Florida from a peril that he himself had created.
He was like the firefighter who is also an arsonist — the guy who starts blazes in order to bask in the adulation he receives for putting them out.
Trump made his announcement amid an astounding gusher of lies about his supposed commitment to the environment, demanding a suspension of disbelief almost as enormous as his needy ego. “Number one since Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said of himself. “Trump is the great environmentalist. I am, I am, I believe strongly in it.”
Trump is the president who, first of all, pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which for any of its imperfections is the strongest tool that the governments of the world (195 of them) have yet devised to avert the fast-approaching catastrophe of man-made climate change.
He has been corroding the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency from within, staffing the government with ideological hacks who see their jobs as exploiting as much public land and rolling back as many anti-pollution regulations as possible, the better to please oil, mining, energy and coal companies, whatever the damage to public health or the future of the planet itself.
The Trump administration has moved to repeal about 100 environmental regulations, an unprecedented assault on the nation’s clean air and clean water. With particular relish, Trump has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and cars and trucks.
Trump did sign the Great American Outdoors Act. But just a few weeks ago, Trump’s White House opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the long-contested swath that the late Sen. John McCain called “one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world,” to oil and gas companies.
Trump has even weakened the National Environmental Policy Act, the landmark law from the Nixon administration that has set the tone for environmental protection for the past 50 years.
Even as rising sea levels threaten his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. He removed climate change from a list of national security threats.
Trump loves to take credit for funding Everglades restoration, although — like banning oil drilling — the bipartisan effort in Congress to restore the legendary River of Grass long predates his administration. And, as U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, reminded last week: The White House has not prodded the Republican-controlled Senate to act on its Everglades funding proposal.
Yet he asks Americans to think of him as a “great environmentalist” — a total inversion of reality. Sure, all politicians fudge facts to puff up their images. But not like this. Trump wants us to accept that up is down, black is white. With the election less than two months away, Trump is rewriting his last three years with an audacity that would be admirable were it not so dangerous.
As a salesman above all else, Trump knows how to read an audience, and the audience in Florida is deeply opposed to offshore drilling. In 2018, the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment banning drilling in state-controlled waters. The 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster in the Gulf is history that still hurts.
And when the White House announced in January 2018 that it would overturn longtime bans on offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, it quickly made an exception for Florida, after then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, registered strong opposition.
Yet less than three months ago, reports surfaced that the Trump administration again planned to allow drilling off Florida’s coast after the November election.
We’re certainly relieved if the president finally gets it when it comes to how Florida voters feel about protecting their coastline. But Trump’s new promise to protect our shores? We have to remember what “great environmentalist” it’s coming from.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.