Editor: Our Southern beaches are world famous destinations and our fisheries are among the world's most productive.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center, based in Charlottesville, Va., has worked to protect our coastal resources and we remain a leading voice against opening the Southeast to offshore drilling.
Going to court: SELC and several conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop seismic blasting, which is the use of loud airguns to test the ocean floor for fuels, in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Trump administration, on Nov. 30, issued “incidental harassment permits” to five seismic surveying companies, allowing them to harm dolphins and whales, including the critically endangered, North Atlantic right whale. These permits, harmful on their own, are the first step in opening the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration.
A coalition of bi-partisan mayors and state and federal representatives recently joined center members on the steps of the Charleston Federal Courthouse, in South Carolina, in support of the lawsuit to block the blasting.
More than 200 East Coast towns, cities and counties, have passed resolutions opposing seismic blasting and offshore drilling for oil and gas, yet, the Trump administration is still moving forward, against the wishes of thousands on the Atlantic Coast.
The Obama administration announced in 2015 it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. But opposition from government and business leaders up and down the coast caused a reversal, effectively ending any potential oil exploration for at least five years. Shortly after taking office, President Trump directed his administration to reconsider that decision, and then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke moved to open the Atlantic to offshore leasing by oil companies
Risks of oil drilling: The Obama administration announced in 2015 that it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. But, opposition from government and business leaders up and down the coast caused a reversal, effectively ending any potential oil exploration for at least five years.
However, shortly after taking office, President Trump directed his administration to reconsider that decision and then-secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, moved to open the Atlantic to offshore leasing by oil companies.
The Trump administration’s leasing plan is the largest in U.S. history, potentially bringing risky offshore drilling to more of America’s shores. At the same time, the Trump administration is rolling back offshore drilling safety measures put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
What this all means is that, if the Trump administration succeeds on its present course, oil drilling could occur closer to more of our coast, and operate with fewer safeguards, jeopardizing the livelihoods of communities that depend on the coast and its fisheries.
If the Trump administration succeeds, oil drilling could occur closer to more of our coast and operate with fewer safeguards, jeopardizing the livelihoods of communities who depend on the coast and its fisheries.
Coastal riches: The beautiful and biologically-rich, southeastern coast, features some of the most beloved places in the country, including, the Chesapeake Bay, the Pamlico Sound, the ACE Basin, and Mobile Bay. Our coasts attract millions of tourists, anglers and other visitors each year. Tourism and fishing, both commercial and recreational, are the economic backbone of hundreds of communities along our coasts.
Problematic infrastructure: The environmental impacts of offshore drilling and its accompanying onshore infrastructure, like refineries, were well known even before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean rigs routinely spill and leak oil and sometimes blow out.
Even without a major spill, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling, such as, the rigs, refineries, pipelines, traffic, and routine spills and accidents, would irreparably change our coastal communities and economies. Hurricanes that frequent our region could make these impacts even more dangerous.
Not worth the risk: The South has too much to lose and too little to gain by opening up its southeastern coast and eastern Gulf to offshore oil drilling.
Instead, the center advocates for increased energy efficiency and development of clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind and solar.
For more information and to get involved, visit ProtectOurCoastNow.com.
Southern Environmental Law Center
West Main Street
Feb. 14, 2019