By Diane Hoskins via The Hill
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on several measures that would protect our coasts from offshore drilling. These amendments prevent federal dollars from being spent to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and off Florida’s Gulf coast. The strong bipartisan votes cut through the partisan rancor and demonstrate the strength of opposition to offshore drilling. If ultimately enacted, the bans on offshore drilling would last for one-year, and now we’re counting on the Senate to follow the House’s leadership on this issue and protect our coasts.
At stake are billions of dollars and millions of jobs from the fishing, recreation and tourism industries that depend on a clean, healthy ocean. Expanding offshore oil drilling would wreak havoc on coastal businesses and communities. That’s why more than 360 municipalities; over 2,200 local, state and federal elected officials; every East and West coast governor; fishing and tourism groups; and alliances representing nearly 50,000 businesses on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts have all come out against offshore drilling activities.
President Trump opened the door to expanding offshore drilling to nearly all U.S. waters in a proposed plan last year. To many, the release of this plan brought to mind the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The explosion killed 11 people and poured millions of gallons of oil into Gulf waters. Hundreds of thousands of birds, marine mammals and sea turtles died. The prospect of oily beaches led to hotel cancellations up and down Florida’s Gulf Coast, even in places the oil never reached. Losses to the fishing industry are estimated well into the billions.
But it’s not only large-scale catastrophes that threaten our coasts. Smaller, chronic spills happen all the time. At least 6,500 oil spills occurred in U.S. waters between 2007 and 2017. Spills are almost always larger than reported, and cleanup methods haven’t advanced since the ’80s. It’s estimated that after the Deepwater Horizon cleanup ended, 60 million gallons of oil remained in the environment. Expanding already harmful and unsafe offshore drilling activities to other shores would be disastrous.
Even the search for oil will be harmful. The Trump administration gave five companies the greenlight to harm ocean wildlife as they search for oil deposits below the Atlantic sea floor using seismic airgun blasting. This disruptive practice involves dynamite-like blasts sending sound waves deep into the ocean floor. These blasts are repeated about every 10 seconds for weeks to months at a time. The area slated for seismic airgun blasting is huge, stretching from New Jersey to Florida. This noise could harm species ranging from the smallest zooplankton—the base of the marine food chain—to the ocean’s largest animals, like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Violently disrupting the ocean’s delicate balance at this scale would lead to irreparable damage to marine ecosystems and the fishing and tourism industries that depend on them. It’s no wonder the House of Representatives voted to keep dirty and dangerous drilling away from our coast. It’s time to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling for good. The votes last week show that along the coast, opposing offshore drilling is no partisan matter. Now Congress can ensure that harm is permanently averted by passing two bipartisan bills, introduced by Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Frances Rooney (R-Fla.), to permanently protect the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida’s Gulf Coast from offshore oil drilling.
We are counting on our lawmakers to come together again and use all available tools to stop offshore drilling. Our representatives can show their constituents that they are listening. Let’s show the American people that the government can still work for them, not the offshore oil industry.
Diane Hoskins is campaign director at Oceana.
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