SELC: Trump Administration’s Offshore Drilling Plan Threatens Southeast, Ignores Overwhelming Opposition
Washington, D.C.– The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) submitted comments today in response to the Trump administration’s request for information (RFI) on a new five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. Just last year, the Obama administration finalized a new five-year program that would have kept Southeast beaches oil-free. In an about-face, the Trump administration has signaled its desire to open our region to oil and gas production for the first time. Joining SELC on these comments were 71 local, regional, and national organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens and businesses.
“Offshore oil and gas production has never been permitted in the Atlantic, and after extensive study and deliberation about the injuries our coast stands to suffer from such activity, it was flatly rejected less than two years ago,” the comments read. “Opening the Atlantic to offshore oil and gas drilling poses a direct threat to the fragile and unique ecosystems of the southeast coast and to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on our clean coastal resources.”The comments specifically argue against offshore drilling in the Southeast because:
- Coastal communities and governors in the region strongly oppose drilling on the coast;
- Drilling would harm the tourism and ocean economies along the coast;
- Drilling would threaten unique and sensitive shorelines, valuable salt marshes, barrier islands, productive marine habitats and fisheries, and numerous areas designated for state and federal protection;
- Drilling would conflict with many important uses for these ocean areas, including Department of Defense and NASA operations, commercial and recreational fisheries, and renewable energy development;
- Chronic pollution and the risk of catastrophic oil spills, especially given the lax oversight and regulatory environment, present too great of a threat to the Atlantic coast;
- The oil and gas industry’s economic projections are based on faulty assumptions that overestimate jobs and income, while discounting the existing tourism- and recreation-based economies; and
- The United States should invest in and develop clean, renewable energy sources instead of wasting resources on developing dirty energy sources.
“There is overwhelming opposition to drilling from coastal communities, elected officials across the political spectrum, local businesses, and commercial and recreational fishing groups,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “These individuals, communities, and businesses have recognized that the risks of drilling outweigh any potential benefits. We will not gamble with our coast."
Today’s comments come after President Trump signed an executive order in April reopening the issue of offshore drilling in the Atlantic, among other areas. At the same time, the Trump administration is clearing the way for offshore drilling by fast tracking the process for approving seismic testing to identify offshore oil and gas deposits. Even before drilling is underway, seismic blasting is likely to cause significant harm to marine mammals like the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the bottlenose dolphin, as well as commercially valuable fisheries.
Almost 130 East Coast cities and towns, including Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah, and hundreds of businesses, trade groups, and tourism associations have passed resolutions opposing Atlantic drilling and seismic testing. Most recently, Virginia Beach and Norfolk joined the opposition, passing anti-drilling resolutions that reversed their earlier support. Republican and Democratic elected representatives at the state and federal level have voiced opposition to drilling off the Atlantic coast, including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
In March of 2016, the Obama Administration decided to scrap a controversial plan to open the Southeast coast to industrial oil and gas drilling for the first time, a move that would dramatically change coastal communities 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 the thriving tourism economy.
To read a full copy of the comments, please click here.
About The Southern Environmental Law Center:
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