Risky oil drilling off Atlantic beaches raises multiple concerns

earth-newOpening up the Mid and South Atlantic coast to risky oil drilling is ill-advised, according to comments submitted this week to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by 27 citizens groups regarding the government’s proposed 2017-2022 leasing of the Atlantic Coast to oil companies for drilling.

“Risking our Atlantic Coast for oil and gas diverts much needed attention and resources away from what the South really needs: the development of clean, renewable energy resources that keep our beaches and seafood clean and create real lasting jobs for Southerners,” said Chris DeScherer, coast and wetlands project leader at the southern environmental law center.

The beautiful and rich coastline off Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia features some of the most productive estuaries in the country, including the Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound, that feed a $497 million fisheries industry in the Mid-Atlantic and a $172 million fisheries industry in the South Atlantic tied to the area’s cultural heritage and food supply. Our shores also attract millions of visitors to the South Atlantic coastal region each year, from beachgoers, surfers, and anglers, to globally rare migratory birds, turtles and whales. Tourism and fishing – both commercial and recreational – are the economic backbone of whole states and hundreds of towns and cities along the coast.

The environmental dangers of offshore drilling are well established. Regardless of how carefully implemented and closely monitored, oil spills happen, as disasters continually demonstrate at drilling platforms and during distribution onshore or by ship. The risk is greatest in extreme weather, including hurricanes. The accompanying refineries, pipelines and other associated infrastructure on coastal lands would spoil beach/barrier islands and wetland and marsh ecosystems, which provide untold environmental benefits for Southern communities, including flood control and clean drinking water.

The southern environmental law center submitted the comments on behalf of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Virginia Conservation Network, Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Environment Virginia, Surfrider Foundation Virginia Beach Chapter, North Carolina Conservation Network, North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Environment North Carolina, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Savannah Riverkeeper, Winyah Rivers Foundation, Charleston Waterkeeper, Conservation Voters of South Carolina, Center for a Sustainable Coast, One Hundred Miles, Satilla Riverkeeper, The St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc., Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Oceana, Marine Conservation Institute, Coastal Coordination Program of The Ocean Foundation, and Ocean Conservation Research.

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