In early 2015, the Obama Administration proposed  opening  the Southeast coast to offshore drilling, threatening jobs and tourism up and down the coast and putting our region at risk of devastating oil spills like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Find out more about the potentially devastating effects of this proposal by clicking the learn more button.

Communities, elected leaders, and impacted businesses and residents along the Southeast coast united in opposition to this major shift in federal policy. Altogether, more than 100 communities up and down the coast passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and the harmful seismic testing that precedes it.

In response to the incredible opposition from coastal communities, the federal government removed the Atlantic from its offshore leasing plan, protecting all that is special about the Southeast coast. 

Yet even though they are closely related, offshore drilling is regulated separately from seismic testing, a process of using loud airguns to test the ocean floor for fuels. So despite the recent decision to protect the Southeast from offshore drilling, the oil and gas industry continues to push seismic testing and the federal government is currently considering applications for seismic testing in the Atlantic.

Seismic testing is a means to one end: offshore oil and gas development, and it is widely opposed by residents, businesses, and local governments up and down the East Coast. There is absolutely no reason to allow seismic testing, harmful on its own, when the Atlantic coast has overwhelmingly rejected offshore drilling. 

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Too Much to Lose:

Communities Oppose Plan to Open the Southeast Coast to Offshore Drilling

In 2015, the Obama Administration proposed opening the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to offshore drilling. This action would be a significant shift in federal policy and a threat to the environment, economy, and lifestyle of the Southeast coast. At the same time, the federal government is reviewing applications for companies to use seismic airguns to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, stretching from Delaware to Florida.  

Along the East Coast, communities, elected leaders, and impacted industries have united to oppose offshore drilling and related activities. To date, towns and cities up and down the coast have passed or are actively voting on resolutions against offshore drilling and/or seismic testing for oil. And local politicians are listening to their constituents: several Southeast mayors, U.S. Representatives, and Senators have written to express disapproval of offshore drilling and testing.

The Obama Administration listened to the concerns of coastal communities and released an updated leasing plan in March 2016 that did not include the Atlantic. However, the oil and gas industry continues to push seismic testing and the federal government is currently considering applications for seismic testing in the Atlantic. 

Big Oil Over Local Businesses and Jobs

The oil and gas industry has worked with intense pressure to try and open up the Southeast coast to offshore drilling with promises of new jobs and public revenues. But tourism and fishing—both commercial and recreational—are the economic backbone of hundreds of towns and cities along the coast. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product from fishing, tourism, and recreation rely on healthy ocean waters and clean beaches. This far outweighs any potential jobs or economic gain that could ever be provided from offshore drilling.

Established, thriving coastal industries would be put at risk by drilling, both through the threat of a catastrophic spill like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and through the impacts of routine drilling operations. Even without a major spill, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling—the rigs, refineries, pipelines, traffic, and routine spills and accidents—would irreparably change our coastal communities and economies.

The Southeast Coast Is Environmentally Valuable—and Fragile

The Southeast Coast is one of the most environmentally vulnerable and valuable regions of the country, making it one of the most catastrophic areas for a potential spill. Dozens of national wildlife refuges, marine protected areas, and national seashores and beaches are located along the coast. The coastal environment provides protection not just to wildlife, but to people living in these areas. Marshes and hammocks help protect against dangerous hurricanes, while coastal wetlands act as the front lines against flood protection and erosion control. Hundreds of species of unique wildlife that live and flourish on beaches and off the coast would be adversely affected by a spill.

Seismic Exploration Alone Will Harm the Marine Environment

Even before any drilling starts, oil and gas expansion into the Atlantic is likely to do serious harm to the environment—and it opens the door to drilling, which the coast overwhelmingly rejected. Seismic testing uses loud airguns to locate fossil fuels deep beneath the ocean floor, firing intense blasts repeatedly for days or weeks with multiple companies covering the same areas repeatedly. Seismic testing is a means to one end: offshore drilling, and it is widely opposed by residents, businesses, and local governments up and down the East Coast. 

Based on the government's own estimates, seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic could harm as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins or whales. Seismic testing could impact economically important fisheries, which contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to state economies and employ over 60,000 individuals, by closing off important fishing grounds to fishermen and impacting important fish habitat.

The federal government is currently considering applications for seismic testing in the Southeast. Nearly 100 communities have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing Members of the public will have opportunities in the coming months to express their concerns about seismic testing.