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

Shrimp boats docked next to tidal mudflats along Jekyll Island. The Georgia coast’s dynamic system of marsh, tidal creeks, fresh water wetlands, and open water is one of the most productive ecosystems in the country for shrimp, fish, crabs, and oysters.  (© Craig Tanner)

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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