Press Release | May 27, 2010

SELC Applauds Announcement to Cancel Va Offshore Drilling; Urges Permanent Ban for All South Atlantic and Eastern Gulf

The Southern Environmental Law Center commends the Obama Administration for cancelling the oil and gas drilling lease sale proposed for 3 million acres off the coast of Virginia, but urges the Administration to permanently ban drilling in the Mid- and South Atlantic, as well as the eastern Gulf. SELC also urges the Administration to clean up the Deepwater oil spill and the Minerals Management Service to ensure adequate safeguards for preventing and dealing with oil spills before moving forward with any new drilling in existing areas.

SELC said the six-month extension of a national moratorium on new deepwater drilling announced by the President today is an appropriate and necessary step in light of  the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but raised concerns about how that moratorium is being implemented.

“It’s truly unfortunate that it took a tragedy of this magnitude to bring home how terribly wrong these operations can go and how devastating the damage can be. The impacts we see unfolding now in the Gulf are exactly what we and other Virginians have voiced concerns about for years.

“The Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore beaches, the fisheries, the state parks and wildlife refuges – these are much too valuable to gamble away for a few weeks of fuel. The President’s announcement today is a good first step, but ultimately we have to put the Atlantic and eastern Gulf off limits to offshore drilling,” said senior attorney Deborah Murray.

“New offshore drilling should be prohibited, not for just six months, but until the Gulf is cleaned up, the Minerals Management Service is cleaned up, and there is one hundred percent assurance this environmental and economic disaster will never occur again,” said Derb Carter, senior attorney and director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Carolinas office.

Background:
The designated lease sale area off the Virginia coast is estimated to contain just six days of oil and 18 days of natural gas at current consumption rates nationally, according to the most recent government surveys. The amount of oil and gas in the Mid- and South-Atlantic region (from Maryland to northern Florida), which the Administration this spring planned to open for drilling, is estimated to contain less than two months supply of oil and just six months supply of natural gas nationally.

This is not worth the tremendous long-term risk to the region’s commercial fisheries – valued at almost $262.8 million in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia in 2008 – and the vibrant tourism industry that supports the South’s coastal economies and culture.

In Virginia, much of the lease sale overlaps with an area used by the Navy for multiple military training operations based mostly out of the Norfolk Naval Base – the largest in the world and an economic mainstay of the Hampton Roads region.  The Department of Defense has consistently opposed drilling due to concerns of conflicts with its operations; the agency reiterated those concerns in a report to MMS made public last week.

The Southern Environmental Law Center believes that instead of putting our exceptional coastal resources and communities at tremendous risk in order to extract a minimal supply of carbon-based fuels, we should pursue strong public policies that promote energy efficiency, and sustainable energy sources.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has been a leading voice in opposing offshore drilling in the Atlantic and eastern Gulf, which poses one of the greatest threats to the coastal resources that SELC has worked to protect for almost 25 years.  Representing Defenders of Wildlife, SELC sued Minerals Management Service for its continued lax oversight of drilling operations like the Deepwater Horizon and its complicity in the Gulf oil disaster, and also notified BP and government agencies of their intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Press Contacts

Deborah M. Murray

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 434-977-4090

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-967-1450
Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org