Obama administration to put large stretches of Atlantic coastline, beaches at risk

Environment America

Washington, D.C. — Today the Obama administration proposed opening up huge swaths of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, putting large stretches of the nation’s coastline, including some of its most beloved beaches from Virginia to Georgia, at risk of a devastating spill.

Nearly five years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon spill dumped 200 million gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico and harmed 16,000 miles of coastline, making it the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The Obama administration proposal opens the door to similar tragedies for the Atlantic.

“From the Chesapeake Bay, to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, to Georgia’s barrier islands, our coasts are simply too precious to drill,” said Margie Alt, Environment America’s executive director. “We’re sorely disappointed to see the president put so many beaches and coastal communities in jeopardy.”

In 2010, only days before the BP disaster, the administration proposed a similar expansion of drilling in the Atlantic. In the months following the catastrophe, the administration quietly withdrew its plan.

“I have to say I’m dismayed by the president’s short memory,” said Alt. “Less than five years ago, staring down the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history, he thought better of dramatically expanding drilling and the dangers that come with it.”

While the administration proposed opening up vast new areas to drilling, it also recommended putting portions of the Arctic Ocean off limits, a follow-up to its proposal to create 12 million acres of wilderness in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environment America lauded the new protections for Alaska, while noting that the Atlantic Coast and all of the Arctic deserve protections, as well.

“Alaska’s Arctic refuge is like no other place on earth, and we congratulate the administration on safeguarding it for future generations,” said Alt. “The polar bears and the caribou don’t deserve an oil disaster, but neither do the Atlantic sea turtles, the right whales, or the tens of millions of people who visit the Southeast’s prized beaches every year.”

Environment America also pointed out that expanding drilling runs counter to the president’s goals of reducing global warming pollution.

To fulfill his commitment to climate action, the president should double down on clean energy sources like wind and solar, not open up more of our beaches to a legacy of oil slicks and dead seabirds,” concluded Alt.