In advance of the March 9 deadline for public comments concerning oil drilling off the coast of South Carolina and many other areas, Oceana has released a new study about the economic effects of the proposal.
Oceana’s analysis is in response to the Trump administration’s new draft five-year program (2019-2024) for oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf, which proposes to expand future oil and gas leasing to nearly all U.S. waters including the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and eastern Gulf of Mexico. This is the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed.
Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, said coastal communities and states are outraged by this radical plan that threatens to destroy clean coast economies.
“From ocean views scattered with drilling platforms, to the industrialization of our coastal communities, to the unacceptable risk of more BP Deepwater Horizon-like disasters, expanding offshore drilling to new areas threatens thriving coastal economies and booming industries like tourism, recreation and fishing that rely on oil-free beaches and healthy oceans,” Hoskins said.
The Oceana report states that oil drilling would be a “bad deal” for coastal states since the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast and Gulf coast of Florida, which are all being considered for oil drilling, support more than 2.6 million American jobs and roughly $180 billion in Gross Domestic Product.
Oceana’s estimates of ocean-dependent tourism, fishing and recreation draw upon National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ocean economy data and incorporate the latest economic multipliers to estimate the broader impacts of those jobs and revenue on the U.S. economy, the report states.
“Clean coasts and healthy oceans promise jobs and revenue year after year, but oil and gas are finite resources,” said Hoskins. “Coastal communities rely upon a healthy marine environment for their livelihoods and way of life and cannot afford the devastation that comes along with oil spills. It’s time for Washington to listen to the local voices that have the most to lose.”
Tourism, recreation and fishing, as well as the associated markets they support, are major drivers of coastal economies, the report states. If fisheries are properly managed and coastlines are continuously protected, these jobs can be sustained for generations to come.
This stands in stark contrast to offshore drilling for oil and gas resources, which are extremely limited and finite, especially in new areas, the report states. Offshore drilling proposals threaten the continued prosperity of coastal communities and states whose economies are inextricably linked to clean, oil-free beaches and shorelines.
From Florida to Maine and California to Washington, over 42,000 miles of shoreline have been untainted by new offshore drilling for decades, the report says. It also says new offshore drilling and exploration proposals pose a direct threat to coastal tourism and other local businesses that depend on a healthy and clean marine environment.
Meanwhile, members of Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, a grassroots group known as SODA, are urging everyone who opposes oil drilling to make a public comment on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Resource Management website.
To make an official comment to BOEM, visit www.regulations.gov, go to the search tab and type BOEM-2017-0074, click on the “comment now” box on the right, paste a letter, enter contact information, uncheck the box “I am submitting on behalf of a third party” and click “submit.”
Peg Howell, a founding member of SODA who is a former oil rig manager in the Gulf of Mexico, described allowing oil drilling in the Atlantic as “opening Pandora’s box and not being able to put a lid on it.”
“We are not being Chicken Little saying, ‘The sky is falling,’ because we need something to do,” Howell said. “We are trying to get the word out that this is a clear and present danger to our coast.”
Proponents such as state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, have said oil drilling would be good for South Carolina because it would bring jobs and revenue. Goldfinch stated in a letter to BOEM officials that the inclusion of the Atlantic Ocean in the offshore leasing program is a welcome reversal from the 2016 decision to remove the region from the current leasing program.
“Providing opportunities for Atlantic energy development could help ensure long-term access to a steady flow of affordable and reliable American energy,” Goldfinch stated. “Atlantic energy development would provide a major economic boost to families and businesses across South Carolina.”
Howell pointed out that the U.S. does not need to produce more oil to be energy independent since any oil and gas produced off the coast is destined for export or U.S. strategic petroleum reserves set up after the 1970s oil embargoes. She said the Trump administration recently announced that it will sell 200 barrels from those reserves.
“At the same time that the Trump administration is encouraging the liquidation sale of U.S. reserves, they are also making it more difficult for us to use solar energy or go to other alternative forms of energy,” Howell said.