“We should not allow the Gulf’s past to become the Atlantic’s future.”

An aerial view of nearly empty Orange Beach, Alabama in the weeks after the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010. (© Julie Dermansky)

On the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, SELC Senior Attorney Sierra Weaver reflects on implications for proposed drilling in the Atlantic.

 

“Five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, the continuing impacts on Gulf Coast communities stand as a stark reminder of why we should not allow the Gulf of Mexico’s past to become the Atlantic’s future.

The federal government is considering opening the South Atlantic to offshore oil and gas leasing for the first time in 30 years. Residents of the coastal communities up and down the Atlantic look at the plight of their Gulf Coast neighbors and are clear in their resolve. They do not want to follow down the path where oil and gas leasing leads.

Local governments throughout the Southeast continue to pass resolutions opposing drilling and seismic exploration, making clear that the industrialization of the coast is fundamentally incompatible with why locals live and work in these areas.

The legacy of the BP spill reinforces their resolve. Tar balls still wash up on Gulf coast shores while commercial fisheries struggle to recover. Nearly 10 million gallons of crude oil have settled onto the floor of the Gulf. By nearly every measure, the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico can in no way be considered complete, and drilling cannot be considered safe.

Even without a catastrophic spill, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling – rigs, refineries, pipelines, traffic - would irreparably change our coastal communities. Tourism and fishing, both commercial and recreational, are the economic backbone of states, towns, and cities along the coast. According to government estimates, ocean-dependent tourism in the Mid- and South Atlantic contributes between $6 billion and $4 billion annually to local economies. These economies rely on clean beaches and would be directly threatened by the changes brought by the oil and gas industry."

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