Since its January roll out, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s offshore drilling plan has come under fire from all quarters.
First Florida Governor Rick Scott asked for a waiver. Then other governors jumped on board. Now the good Lord has weighed in through earthly representatives to register opposition to the Interior Department’s plans to drill large swaths of the oceans around the U.S.
On Thursday, a group of more than 300 priests, nuns, reverends, and other men and women of the cloth sent a letter to Zinke and his boss Donald Trump. In it, they said they couldn’t support a plan that “brings unacceptable risks to God’s oceans and coastal communities.”
Currently, 94 percent of U.S. coastal waters are closed to drilling. The Zinke plan would radically alter that math, opening almost every corner U.S. oceans and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration.
There are political, economic, and environmental reasons for opposing the plan. The letter touches on some of those and couches them in a religious context. Its signatories are members of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, a group of religious leaders from various faiths who see the planet as a resource to be cherished rather than ravished. They explained why drilling in the oceans is a terrible idea and why the administration should be focusing its energy efforts on renewables instead:
God created the oceans with an abundance of life and, as stewards of God’s earth, we should work to preserve and protect God’s marine creation. As people of faith, we also uphold our duty to love our neighbors. Oceans provide food sources and livelihoods for millions in the U.S. and globally.
We urge the Trump Administration to focus on investments in renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, as well as maximize our energy efficiency, instead of looking to expand fossil fuel exploration in God’s ocean. God entrusts us to be good stewards of God’s oceans and coasts. We should honor this sacred duty and position our country as a global leader in energy stewardship.
We ask you to join us as God’s steward of the oceans and to respect the local residents, businesses, and millions of Americans who have already made clear their support for preserving, not drilling off our nation’s beaches.
This isn’t the first time religious leaders have waded into the politics around resource extraction. Late last year, a dozen nuns from the Sisters of Mercy sent a letter to Congress asking representatives and senators to not open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. And then there’s Pope Francis himself who has shared a consistently pro-environmental protection message with his billion-plus followers.
The nuns lost that battle, but the fight over offshore drilling has some powerful constituencies pushing back against the plan from both sides of the aisle. In addition to the bipartisan group of governors asking for waivers, 200 bipartisan state representatives sent a letter registering their displeasure with the plan as well.
The only constituency that seems on board with this plan is the oil and gas industry, which is the only group the Trump administration consistently thinks about. But clergy members are trying to remind them there’s a higher power they might just have to answer to.