As hurricane season begins today, federal officials remind us of what a dangerous combination storms and offshore drilling can be.
An article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration lays out the hazards of hurricanes for oil exploration and the associated infrastructure. There are stories of oil spills that were caused by the high winds and waves of hurricanes, as well as those that were made worse when a hurricane swept through an area already facing a slick. In the first scenario, massive oil rigs have broken loose and sunk–actually going missing as they continued to leak oil into the marine environment–boats have been tossed ashore, and tanks at refineries have spilled oil into neighborhoods, releasing millions of gallons of crude and refined oil into the environment. In cases where the reverse occurred and a hurricane hit an existing spill, already-released oil spread and sunk and cleanup efforts were suspended or discontinued to focus on storm-related damage.
Stories like these remind us of the dangers inherent in opening the hurricane-prone Southeast to offshore oil drilling. The federal government is considering opening waters off the coast of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia that were previously off-limits to the oil industry. Towns up and down the coast, and even further inland, have weighed in opposing drilling and asking the government not to put their natural resources and coast based economies at risk.