Trump Announces Ban on Offshore Drilling Off Atlantic Coast

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the environment at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum on Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) — Calling himself a “great environmentalist,” President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he would be expanding a ban on new offshore drilling off the coasts of certain Atlantic states in a reversal of his previous support for it.  

The president signed a memorandum that bars drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina for a period of 10 years — a move that will appeal to residents of those states who are concerned about protecting tourism-drawing beaches from oil spills.

“This protects your beautiful gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come,” Trump said in a speech at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida, Tuesday. 

The ban will take effect from July 2022 to June 2032, according to the president’s memorandum. A preexisting moratorium covers the Gulf of Mexico. 

During the speech Tuesday in Florida where he announced the new ban, Trump pitched himself as a steward of the environment.” 

He declared, in third-person: “Trump is the great environmentalist.”

“You hear that? That’s good, and I am. I am. I believe strongly in it,” Trump said.

Touting during the speech his signing of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, which allotted up to $1.9 billion for infrastructure improvements for U.S. national parks, Trump dubbed himself  the “number one” president for the environment since Theodore Roosevelt. 

However, the Trump administration has also rolled back several regulations that were put in place to protect air and water quality, as well as habitats that are essential for threatened or endangered species. The president left the Paris Agreement — aimed at mitigating climate change — and weakened the National Environmental Policy Act in order to fast-track construction permits. 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a tweet on Tuesday that he has remained consistent in his opposition to new offshore drilling, while Trump has reversed his stance on the issue. 

“Just months ago, Donald Trump was planning to allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida,” Biden said in a tweet. “Now, with 56 days until the election, he conveniently says that he changed his mind. Unbelievable.”

Others also called out Trump’s inconsistent stance on environmental policy Tuesday. 

“Trump’s administration has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans; no amount of his greenwashing can change the simple fact: Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history,” a collection of environmental groups said in a statement.  

The groups included the Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Action, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society.

South Carolina’s Republican Governor Henry McMaster, and the state’s Attorney General Alan Wilson, applauded the president’s announcement. 

“South Carolina is blessed with the most beautiful and pristine beaches, sea islands, and marshes in the nation,” McMaster said. “Seismic testing and offshore drilling threatens their health and jeopardizes the future of our state’s $24 billion tourism industry. Today’s announcement is good news, but we must remain vigilant in the conservation and preservation of our coastline.

Wilson thanked the Trump administration for listening to the state’s concerns. 

“We had sued the federal government to protect South Carolina’s coast from oil and gas exploration and drilling,” Wilson said. “This is a step in the right direction and we will remain vigilant in protecting South Carolina’s coast and economy.”

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