Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) at the Department of the Interior issued a formal Request for Information asking governors in the Southeast and the general public for input on whether their respective states should be included in the Trump administration’s five-year offshore drilling plan for 2019-2024. Local residents, town councils, and state governors have 45 days to provide input to the Trump administration.
“For years, businesses, elected officials, and communities up and down the coast have made it clear they do not support offshore drilling,” said Senior Attorney Sierra Weaver. “Despite clear opposition in the Southeast, President Trump has reopened what was and still is a settled debate in our region. This is the moment for governors to stand up and be champions for the coastal communities they were elected to serve, and make clear that offshore drilling has no place off our coast.”
Today’s formal request for information comes after President Trump signed an executive order in April aimed at reopening the issue of offshore drilling in the Atlantic, among other areas, going against the will of coastal communities that came out in force when this was first on the table. More than 120 coastal cities and towns, including Virginia Beach, Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah, and hundreds of businesses, trade groups, and tourism associations have passed resolutions opposing Atlantic drilling and seismic testing.
In March of 2016, coastal opposition combined with scientific research and the potential economic impact on the fishing and tourism industries convinced the Obama administration to scrap a controversial plan to open the coasts to industrial oil and gas exploration for the first time, a move that would dramatically change coastal communities, threaten precious natural resources, and jeopardize coastal economies. The Southeast coast is built around a thriving tourism industry that attracts visitors from around the world to the pristine beaches, picturesque coastal communities, and beautiful waters that could be devastated with a single major oil spill. Even without a catastrophic accident, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling—the rigs, refineries, pipelines, and traffic—would irreparably change coastal communities and hurt the thriving tourism economy.
Already, the Trump administration has taken initial steps to clear the way for offshore drilling by issuing draft incidental take authorizations, a required exemption for ocean activity that impacts marine mammals and other marine life. This move is a precursor for companies to conduct seismic blasting to test for offshore oil and gas through dynamite-like blasts every 10 seconds for weeks on end. Even before drilling is underway, seismic blasting would causes significant harm to the commercial fishing industry and endangered whales in the Atlantic Ocean.