Businesses, Former Navy Base Commander: Offshore Drilling a Threat to Economy, Military

Oceanfront Rally Decries Executive Order to “Review” Atlantic Protections

Virginia Beach, VA — A coalition of business leaders and a former Navy base commander said today President Trump’s executive order directing a “review” of offshore drilling protections in the Atlantic Ocean is a threat to the city’s tourism economy and would impair military readiness.

“We are here today to take a stand,” said Laura Habr, co-owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro and a founding member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC). “The hospitality industry of Virginia Beach will fight every effort to open this beautiful coast to oil drilling.”

BAPAC now represents 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families along the East Coast, all opposed to offshore drilling.

Habr said oil drilling would jeopardize Virginia Beach’s thriving tourism industry that brings in $1.4 billion per year and employs more than 12,000 people.

“We will fight every effort to line the pockets of petroleum executives while risking $244 million in local tourism salaries,” she said. “That’s income going to the hard workers who rise before dawn -- and who work until dawn – to make Virginia Beach one of the country’s best beaches.”

Habr was joined at the rally by retired Navy Capt. Joe Bouchard, a former commander of Naval Station Norfolk.

Bouchard said the military has opposed oil drilling in the Atlantic for 30 years, and since 2006 when the push for oil exploration resurfaced, has voiced strong opposition every year.

“The naval forces engaged in the war on terror, and other critical missions defending our nation, train in the operating areas off the Atlantic Coast every day,” Bouchard said.  “The warships that launched cruise missiles into Syria in April, 2017, trained in those training ranges.”

The Obama administration placed the Atlantic Ocean off limits for oil-drilling leases through 2022, and placed sensitive parts of the ocean, like the Norfolk Canyon, into permanent protection.

The Trump Administration’s executive order directs a “review” of those protections, which business leaders said was an unmistakable first step to allowing oil exploration and drilling.

Bouchard said the effort to open the Atlantic to oil rigs represents a “direct threat” to our national security.

“All patriotic Americans must accept that the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to have unrestricted access to vital training ranges cannot be compromised by offshore drilling,” he said.

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The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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