WASHINGTON, DC – Atlantic Coast communities won a major victory today, when the Obama administration abandoned its plans to open the southern Atlantic to offshore oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades.
“This is incredible news for our beaches, for our family vacations, and for sea turtles and whales,’” said Margie Alt, Environment America executive director. “Atlantic coast communities spoke up loudly and clearly against drilling and spilling, and today the president is standing with them.”
Announced last January, the initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan put at risk beaches from Virginia to North Carolina, marine life such as the right whales, sea turtles, and dolphins; and thriving tourism and fishing industries that contribute more than $4 billion in total economic activity. The updated version released today completely removes the Atlantic lease areas from the plan.
Opposition to the drilling proposal had been building for months, particularly among coastal towns and businesses – who view the prospect of offshore oil and gas rigs as a threat to beaches, fisheries, and the Atlantic’s coastal economy.
According to the National Ocean Economics Program, ocean-related tourism and recreation generates three times the amount of economic activity Atlantic drilling is estimated to produce.
Last month Environment America and colleagues presented Obama officials with letters signed by more than 1,000 East Coast businesses opposed to the drilling proposal.
“What the administration has done is nothing short of saving the coastal jobs of tens of thousands and protecting our coastal heritage and beauty,” said Pete Key, realtor in Oak Island, N.C., among the many businesses who signed a letter to the president. “I can’t thank them enough for doing the right thing, for our beaches, our economy and for my children and their children.”
More than a hundred coastal towns and cities, including every town on the South Carolina coast and all but five on the North Carolina coast, have passed resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing.
“My faith in the grassroots is restored. For more than a year and a half, hundreds of coastal communities, small businesses and environmental groups have come together to defend our pristine coast from seismic testing and drilling for oil and gas,” said Billy Keyserling, mayor of Beaufort, S.C., one of the first towns to pass a resolution against drilling and seismic testing. “This is a great day for the people of Beaufort and people up and down the Atlantic Coast. Many thanks to President Obama for listening to us and responding.”
Citizens also turned out in droves to oppose the drilling plan, with more than 1400 people, the vast majority against drilling, attending public meetings last year.
While the administration is taking the Atlantic out of its proposed program, new lease areas for drilling remain in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic. Last month, environmental groups presented the administration with 2 million signatures from citizens across the country, urging protection for not only the Atlantic, but the Arctic and the remaining unleased portions of the Gulf as well.
“We applaud the president for protecting our Atlantic beaches and coastal way of life,” said Alt. “And to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we must keep the vast majority of oil, coal, and gas beneath the sea and in the ground. That’s why we urge the president to meet the Paris climate accord and his new agreement with Canada, and also reject new drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf.”