Offshore Drilling

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SELC op-ed: Atlanta’s voice needed to fight offshore drilling More »

As Georgia coastal communities continue to recover and rebuild from two major hurricanes that have hit the coast within the past year, these storms represent one more reason why offshore drilling has no place off Georgia’s waters.

To be successful in preventing drilling off Georgia’s coast, SELC senior attorney Bill Sapp and Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for One Hundred Miles, are asking the City of Atlanta to join other Georgia cities like Savannah, Brunswick, Tybee Island, St. Marys, Hinesville, Kingsland, and Porterdale that have all passed resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing.

Below is an excerpt of the piece. Read the full guest column here.

Wrecking countless homes and businesses, and shredding boats and docks along the entire coast, hurricanes Matthew and Irma flooded St. Marys and Tybee Island, pounded the beaches of Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island, and overtopped the sea walls in Savannah and St. Simons.

With our curved coastline dubbed the “Georgia Bite,” we have some of the highest tides on the East coast, which can mean a significantly higher storm surge than other coastal states in the event of a hurricane or strong storm.

If the tidal surge had been awash in crude oil, our coast could be facing a nightmare scenario like the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, where 8 million gallons of oil spilled due to hundreds of destroyed pipelines and drilling platforms.

Even before drilling is underway, seismic blasting is likely to cause significant harm to marine mammals including Georgia’s official state mammal, the endangered North Atlantic right whale, (which is already facing a steep decline, with 14 right whale deaths this year), as well as commercially valuable fisheries.

To ensure that our coastlines are not subjected to these unprecedented threats, the City of Atlanta must join the already overwhelming and bipartisan opposition from Southern leaders and coastal communities and take a stand against drilling off Georgia’s coast.

It makes sense that Atlanta would be in favor of preserving this incredible, unique region. Unsurprisingly, the Georgia coast is Atlanta’s favorite vacation destination—Atlantans visit the Georgia coast in greater numbers than any group in the country.

Our healthy waters and clean beaches draw tourists from across the state, travelers from all corners of the U.S., and visitors worldwide.

Because of these resources, the local ocean economy thrives, supporting more than 24,000 jobs and generating over $1.2 billion to Georgia’s economy.

Protecting the Georgia coast is also in line with the progressive goals of the City of Atlanta to source 100 percent of its power from clean, renewable energy by 2035. While Atlanta has committed to curb its use of carbon fuel, curbing the development of new, risky fossil-fuel sources off our Georgia coast would take that commitment one step further.

As the debris from the storm is cleared and flooding recedes, we must take action to prepare for what kind of future we want for our state and our coast.

To preserve all that is special about this region—our seafood, pristine beaches, the historic character of our coastal cities and port towns—Atlanta’s voice is needed in the fight to keep offshore drilling and seismic testing off Georgia’s waters.

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Defending Our Southern Coasts

Our Southern beaches are world famous destinations and our fisheries are among the most productive in the world. For 30 years, SELC has worked to protect our coastal resources and we remain a leading voice against opening the Southeast and new areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling.

Risks of Oil Drilling

In early 2015, the federal government announced it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling, a significant shift in federal policy that would jeopardize the communities, jobs, and beloved beaches that are the very heart of our coastal states. 

The possibility of drilling off the coast galvanized locals who knew the dangers it posed to the area’s economy and environment. Altogether, more than 100 communities up and down the coast passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling and the harmful seismic testing that precedes it. 

In response to the incredible opposition from coastal communities, in 2016 the federal government removed the Atlantic from its offshore leasing plan, protecting all that is special about the Southeast coast.

Coastal Riches

The beautiful and biologically rich Southeast coastal areas and our Gulf Coast feature some of the most beloved places in the country, including the Chesapeake Bay, the Pamlico Sound, the ACE Basin, and Mobile Bay. Our coasts attract millions of tourists, anglers, and other visitors each year.

Tourism and fishing—both commercial and recreational—are the economic backbone of hundreds of communities along our coasts. 

Problematic Infrastructure

The environmental impacts of offshore drilling and its accompanying infrastructure and refineries onshore were well known even before the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean rigs routinely spill and leak oil—and sometimes blow out.

Even without a major spill, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling—the rigs, refineries, pipelines, traffic, and routine spills and accidents—would irreparably change our coastal communities and economies.

Seismic Testing 

Even though they are closely related, offshore drilling is regulated separately from seismic testing, a process of using loud airguns to test the ocean floor for fuels. So despite the recent decision to protect the Southeast from offshore drilling, the oil and gas industry continues to push seismic testing and the federal government is currently considering applications for seismic testing in the Atlantic.

Seismic testing is a means to one end: offshore oil and gas development, and it is widely opposed by residents, businesses, and local governments up and down the East Coast. There is absolutely no reason to allow seismic testing, harmful on its own, when the Atlantic coast has overwhelmingly rejected offshore drilling. SELC continues to work alongside coastal communities to ensure seismic testing does not move forward.

Not Worth the Risk

The South has too much to lose and too little to gain by opening up the Southeast coast and eastern Gulf to offshore oil drilling. Instead SELC advocates increased energy efficiency and development of clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind and solar.

For more information and to get involved, visit ProtectOurCoastNow.com.