Offshore Drilling, Onshore Damage

Broken pipelines, dirty refineries and the pollution impacts of energy infrastructure

The Trump administration has proposed opening much of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans off the U.S. coast to offshore oil and gas drilling. The onshore infrastructure that is needed to support expanded offshore drilling poses dangers to the environment, communities and public health.   Offshore drilling requires a supporting network onshore, including pipelines to deliver oil and gas to refineries or distribution networks; refineries to produce gasoline and other petroleum products; ports for sending equipment and maintenance boats to offshore rigs; and waste disposal facilities.   Onshore infrastructure and activities that support offshore drilling create multiple risks to public health and the environment, including air pollution, groundwater contamination and oil spills.


Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Offshore drilling relies on onshore pipelines, waste disposal facilities, ports and refineries that endanger public health by polluting the air and water, and threaten wildlife and ecosystems.

Increased offshore drilling may mean new pipelines will be constructed to carry oil and gas onshore from offshore wells, increasing the risk of leaks that endanger sensitive coastal ecosystems. Or, it may result in more oil tankers and barges coming and going from U.S. ports, either delivering crude oil from offshore production sites or picking up oil for export. Increased offshore oil production may lead to construction of new refineries or the expansion of existing ones, adding to the air pollution already burdening nearby communities.

This report describes in more detail how increased offshore oil and gas production may affect people and the environment onshore as new infrastructure is built or as existing facilities are used more intensively.