Too Much To Lose:
Communities Oppose Plan To Open The Southeast Coast To Offshore Drilling
When the federal government announced a proposal in 2015 to open the waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to oil and gas drilling, people who live and work along the Southeast coast came out strongly against drilling and for protecting our coastal communities and economies instead.
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 140 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.
Despite this overwhelming opposition, the government has announced another ill-advised plan for oil and gas drilling in nearly all U.S. waters, including the Atlantic Ocean, which would be a direct threat to the Southeast coast and the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on our clean beaches.
Coastal communities and businesses made it clear to the last president that they do not want offshore drilling, and they’ll do the same with this president.
Despite the fact that Southeastern Mayors, Governors, U.S. Representatives, and Senators have weighed in to ask that offshore drilling be kept from their shores, in January 2018 the Trump administration proposed annual lease sales in the Atlantic beginning in 2020. At the same time, the federal government is also expected to issue permits imminently for seismic testing to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, stretching from Delaware to Florida
The new proposal omits the 50 mile buffer off the coast included in the previous administration’s five-year plan. In addition, the new administration has proposed to roll back safety rules put in place in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, all of which would bring drilling closer to shore and make it more dangerous for the communities who depend on the coast and its fisheries.
The Trump administration has already removed Florida’s coastline from the offshore drilling proposal after a request from the governor, with claims that Florida’s unique coastline is dependent on its tourism-based economy. This move has triggered outrage from governors along the coast who have made the same request.
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 both drilling and seismic testing are 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.