Press Release | September 21, 2009

Six Months of Oil Not Worth a Disaster on Southern Coasts, Says SELC

As another oil disaster unfolds off the coast of Australia and Alaska marks the 20th anniversary of the “Exxon Valdez” disaster, the Southern Environmental Law Center today filed comments with the U.S. Department of the Interior that urged the Obama Administration to protect the Atlantic coast and beaches of the South rather than drilling for the small amount of oil offshore. Today’s comments were filed on behalf of several environmental groups as the department reviews whether to allow offshore drilling in unspoiled coastal areas over the next five years. “Endangering the bounty and beauty of our Southern coast to extract just six months worth of oil makes no sense,” said Marirose Pratt, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Instead, the Administration should aggressively pursue energy efficiency policies that reduce our demand for oil and gas while also investing in innovative, clean energy technologies. Our Southern coasts have an abundance of renewable energy resources, such as offshore wind, that, if responsibly developed, could help meet our energy needs, address the threat of climate change, and generate jobs.” Drilling for oil would risk Southern tourism, rare wildlife, and fisheries for what the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service estimates would be only enough oil for six months, and it would take seven to ten years to bring online. Each year thousands of people enjoy the natural beauty and white sandy beaches of the Southeastern coastline with an economic impact of over $80 billion and over half a million jobs in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Rare and iconic wildlife—including migratory birds, endangered sea turtles and the rarest of whales also enjoy the same coastal areas. Commercial fisheries bring in over a quarter of a billion dollars each year and are crucial to local economies and traditional ways of life in the region. As the Administration reviews its drilling policy, a drilling operation off the coast of Australia continues to spill oil as it has since it blew out more than three weeks ago according to news reports. The operation used new technology that proponents of drilling claim makes such operations safe. Yet, estimates are that it will take an additional three more weeks to plug the oil. The slick is now so big it can be seen from space and fishermen say a fifth of their waters have been polluted by the oil and worry that fish have been poisoned by the oil and clean-up chemicals. “If an oil spill like the one unfolding near Australia occurred off our coasts, it would devastate our beaches, fisheries, and have untold economic impacts,” added Pratt. Investing in clean energy could result in about 170,000 jobs for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia according to estimates from a recent study by the Center for American Progress. ### About Southern Environmental Law Center The Southern Environmental Law Center is the only regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. WEB: FACEBOOK: TWITTER:

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