New report: Offshore drilling brings onshore dangers to coastal communities and ecosystems

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Josh Chetwynd

Kelsey Lamp

Director, Protect Our Oceans Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Environment America highlights onshore pollution effects from offshore oil drilling

Environment America Research & Policy Center

BOSTON — Plans to expand drilling off America’s coast are creating significant dangers to onshore communities and ecosystems, according to a new report released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center. From pipelines running through sensitive coastal habitats to air pollution released by oil refineries, Offshore Drilling, Onshore Damage: Broken Pipelines, Dirty Refineries and the Pollution Impacts of Energy Infrastructure highlights how onshore industrial infrastructure created for offshore drilling can damage our environment in a variety of ways. 

“We want to visit clean beaches, smell the ocean breeze, and admire the marine life off our coast — not avoid pipelines, choke on pollution from oil refineries, and contend with oil barges,” said Wendy Wendlandt, chairwoman of Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Drilling off our coast may seem far away from homes and businesses, but the onshore infrastructure necessary to drill for dirty fossil fuels creates a pressing threat to the health of both Americans and our ecosystems.”

Pipelines running from offshore rigs to inland processing facilities can worsen water quality in estuaries and increase the likelihood of oil spills across beaches, according to the report. In addition, toxic waste brought onshore from drilling operations can pollute drinking water and tracts of land.  Beyond those issues, air pollution from oil refineries also threatens local residents’ health. 

These problems could only get worse, the report notes. Expanding offshore drilling, as the Trump administration proposed last year, could lead to additional pollution from new infrastructure in previously pristine coastal areas where communities have long been able to avoid this type of industrialization. 

The Trump administration increased the likelihood of more offshore drilling in January 2018, when it released a plan to open more than 90 percent of America’s oceans to oil & gas drilling. The plan, temporarily on hold, would be an unprecedented expansion of drilling, and faces stiff opposition, including from every governor along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. 

“Whether it causes oil spills off our coast or pollution on our shores, offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous,” said Kelsey Lamp, co-author of the report and ocean advocate for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “We know the risks, but must act to address them or suffer dire consequences to the health and beauty of our coastlines and so many communities.”