Virginians stand up to Trump administration offshore drilling plans

virginiaVirginians from coastal communities on the Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach are joining lawmakers from the Commonwealth in standing up to the Trump Administration and its plans to open our coast to offshore drilling.

“This ill-conceived plan by the Trump Administration is irresponsible and members from both sides of the aisle stand against it. Virginia has nothing to gain from opening our shores to drilling and everything to lose,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Offshore drilling is wrong for our environment, for our economy and for our coastal military operations.”

As the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) holds a public meeting in Richmond, Virginia today to hear from the public about this dangerous plan to include Virginia among its 47 potential lease sales — the largest number ever proposed — people from across the state are speaking up about the risk to our environment, military operation, fishing industry and businesses.

“The Virginia Beach City Council has been very clear with our objection to offshore drilling and seismic testing.  Our economy, environment, and way of life would clearly be irreparably harmed in the event of a catastrophe. But we don’t have to imagine a spill to understand the immediate impacts to our military’s ability to continue to operate in these much used areas and what that could mean to our economy and the nation’s ability to maintain mission readiness,” said Virginia Beach City Councilmember John Uhrin.

“Virginia’s coastal tourism industry brings in more than $4 billion into the state every year,” said Laura Habr, co-owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach and Founding Board Member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast. “The vitality of our businesses in coastal communities is dependent on the environmental well-being of our waters.”

The Virginia coast’s importance reaches beyond the state as the largest seafood producer on the East Coast and third largest in the US

“If the government doesn’t do its job to protect our coast then we can’t do our jobs,” said Mike Oesterling, Executive Director for the Shellfish Growers of Virginia. “Our businesses and our employees’ jobs rely on a healthy coastal environment.”

In Virginia’s Coastal Region in 2015, tourism generated $4.7 billion in revenue and $345 million in state and local taxes. Additionally over 45,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in salaries rely on tourism along the coast. Beyond the economic losses that offshore drilling could cause is the disruption to military operations.

“The military depends on a unique, unobstructed, secure area off the Virginia coast for critical military training and operations,” said U.S. Navy retired Rear Admiral Craig Quigley. “The impact on military training off the coast of Virginia is all negative; there is no upside here.”

Onshore infrastructure and activities that accompany the offshore oil and gas industry, like oil refineries, storage facilities, pipelines, and traffic, pose environmental and health-related challenges for coastal communities, in addition routine spills and accidents would irreparably alter the character of those communities.

Today’s BOEM meeting is part of a 60-day public comment period on the recently released draft five-year program (2019-2024) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

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