WASHINGTON, DC – Today, coastal leaders from Virginia to Florida are in Washington, D.C. to urge President Obama to abandon his proposed plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to industrial offshore drilling for the first time in U.S. history. The visit, which includes meetings with federal elected and appointed officials, comes as the Obama administration prepares to release its updated proposal in early 2016.
While the Department of the Interior considers opening a large swath of the Atlantic to offshore drilling, spanning from Virginia to Georgia, opposition continues to mount. As of today, 89 East Coast municipalities, more than 600 federal, state and local elected officials and over 300 business interests have all publically opposed offshore drilling, citing threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.
Here is what coastal leaders are saying:
"Tourism is Virginia Beach's biggest economic engine and directly supported nearly 13,000 jobs in 2014. Restaurant sales have exceeded $1 billion for the past two years. An oil spill would put us out of business," said Laura Wood Habr, Co-Owner of Croc's 19th Street Bistro and Vice President of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association. "It seems silly to put a proven, thriving industry at risk when the threats of offshore drilling far outweigh any potential jobs or economic gain. The dangers of rising sea levels are a huge worry in our area – we’re the second most at-risk city after New Orleans and rank 10th in the world in value of assets exposed – so common sense suggests we should be focused on developing renewable energy sources if we’re really serious about combating the global warming crisis."
“Opening the East Coast to offshore drilling is not a matter of national security, it will not lead to energy independence, and it will not bring jobs to our state or county,” said Billy Keyserling, Mayor of Beaufort, South Carolina. “We are putting the Atlantic coast at risk for less than 4 percent of the nation’s total oil and natural gas reserves. Offshore drilling would be a job loser, not a job gainer. Coastal communities like Beaufort have the most to lose, and our voices are going unheard. At stake in Beaufort County alone is $1.2 billion in revenue, 13,000 jobs and about $221 million in payroll. Governor Haley should stop answering Big Oil’s call and stand with her coastal communities, which are all saying ‘we don’t want offshore drilling here – don’t fracture the golden egg of our pristine coast.’”
“Allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic would be a disastrous business decision for states with economies relying on vibrant coastal tourism,” said Frank Knapp, President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “The hundreds of thousands of small business jobs dependent on a healthy tourism economy are thus dependent on a healthy ocean. No small business owner or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, other than the petroleum industry, would risk their successful business by starting an incompatible side business. Only foolish politicians would even think of doing such a thing.”
“We’re just beginning to understand the long-term, detrimental effects of the Gulf oil spill on fish populations,” said Tim O’Brien, Ph.D., President of Tycoon Tackle, Representative of The International Game Fish Association and Advisor to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. “Commercial and recreational fishing could suffer dramatically from routine leaks as well as the looming risk of a BP Deepwater Horizon-like oil disaster along the East Coast. Even offshore drilling exploration poses serious threats to recreational fishing interests in the area because of potential disruption of the delicate food chain that exists in the oceans.”
“I live where most people vacation,” said Matt Price, Owner, Operator and Developer of The Waterfront Shops in Duck, North Carolina. “Offshore drilling doesn’t just threaten our ocean, it threatens our livelihoods and way of life. My life revolves around the ocean, from my work in real estate to my passion for surfing, and there’s just no room for any industry that threatens to take it all away.”
Seismic airgun blasting, a process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, also continues to move forward in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida. In March, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.”
“I spent my career in the Navy using sound in the ocean to locate and identify submarines,” said Johnny Miller, Mayor-Elect of Fernandina Beach, Florida and a retired sonar specialist with the United States Navy. “I’ve learned that sound is everything to animals like dolphins and whales. It’s unacceptable that we’re actually considering using dynamite-like blasts to support our dirty and dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. We are the voice for our ocean, and we need to be saying ‘no’ to offshore drilling.”
“Kure Beach was ground zero for the debate over seismic testing,” said Emilie Swearingen, Mayor-Elect of Kure Beach, North Carolina. “Small communities like mine rely entirely on a healthy ocean, but offshore oil exploration risks that as well as our quality of life. I’m looking forward to taking office next month and having our community join the growing opposition to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”