The New Year began with the Trump’s administration’s stunning plan to open America’s coastlines to offshore drilling, from sea to shining sea. We in Indian River County were left to imagine the horrifying sight of oil rigs off our cherished Treasure Coast.

Then suddenly, one week later, the rigs had vanished.

The wondrous power of partisan politics had intervened.  After what must have been a “Come to Jesus” meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke turned tail and announced that Florida – and only Florida – would be exempted.

How cynical. How revealing. This turnabout had nothing to do with sound domestic energy and environmental policy. No, this exemption was solely designed help Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his expected bid for Senate this fall and the re-election of the President in 2020.

“I have witnessed Governor Scott’s leadership through hurricane season and am working closely with him on Everglades restoration. He is a straightforward leader that can be trusted,” said Zinke. What, the governors of other coastal states cannot be trusted?  Not even the other four Republican governors on the East Coast?

Of course, Zinke would NOT commit to meeting with these or any other governors, residents also want nothing to do with offshore drilling, for whom shore tourism is a vital economic driver and who fear the environmental and economic devastation of another Deepwater Horizon disaster.


The Republicans have shown their hand, time and again. They are plainly playing to their base. It’s long past time for Democrats to put our cards on the table.

But can we honestly say that Democrats have offered a cohesive alternative to offer voters in November?

Offshore drilling is a good place to start, because while fossil fuels provide immediate gratification, it’s not our future.

I believe that the most profound distinction between parties is that Democrats largely embrace science. We accept the reality of climate change. We seeks to invest in energy that is all around us – wind, solar and perhaps, someday, safe fusion technology. If we as a nation diminish or discredit science, the world certainly will overtake us.

Furthermore, Democrats want to rebuild the nation’s aged and vulnerable energy grid and create untold millions of jobs. (Why are we ceding the construction of solar panels to China, anyway?)

Republicans have made this all the more difficult by their multi-trillion dollar giveaway to the wealthy and corporations under the guise of tax reform. We must put Democrats back in charge. We must attempt to reclaim at least a portion of the tax giveaway, and undertake long overdue infrastructure projects as significant as rebuilding the energy grid. This will put real wages in the pockets of those who will do the job.

If this our position, then let’s amplify it so loud that every voter can hear.


–Richard Leonard, Communications Committee