In March of last year, many of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when the White House removed Virginia’s coastline and the coastline of our southern neighbors from the federal government’s offshore drilling plan.
That meant a five year moratorium on any attempt to drill off our beautiful coast.
Unfortunately President Trump recently issued an Executive Order dramatically reversing course. Now the Atlantic Coast — and our shoreline — is at risk once again.
Just last week, the Trump Administration announced its plans to grant drilling companies permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting off the Atlantic Coast, from Delaware all the way down to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The blasting alone — which includes enormous bursts of sound every 10-20 seconds that travel for hundreds of miles under water — would directly harm an estimated 138,000 marine mammals.
And make no mistake, this blasting is the first dangerous step along the path to offshore drilling that will endanger our shores, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Virginians, and the economic stability of Hampton Roads.
As you might remember from 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig failed, exploded and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. waters in our history. Eleven people lost their lives, more than 200 million gallons of oil were spilled, and hundreds of miles of coastline were impacted. Tourism rates declined after the spill and visitor spending dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars. One study puts the economic loss just to commercial and recreational fisheries at $8.7 billion by 2020. There is no guarantee against catastrophes like this once risky offshore drilling begins.
Over the last two years the voices of opposition to seismic airgun blasting and Atlantic drilling has grown to a roar. Residents, business owners, local officials and localities on Virginia’s Eastern Shore oppose offshore drilling — and with good reason. More than 45,000 Virginians depend on tourism jobs along our coast. In Virginia Beach alone, 12,500 Virginians work in the tourism industry, which brings $1.4 billion in revenue to the city each year. All of those jobs, including those of watermen, are dependent on the health of our waters and marine life.
As the founder of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, I can tell you the 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families we represent categorically oppose offshore oil drilling. The business community in Hampton Roads understands that this is a lucrative venture for out of state oil and gas companies and one in which we — residents, fishermen, business owners — could lose everything. That’s also why the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association along with the Virginia Beach Hotel Association oppose offshore drilling.
Our economy is not the only thing at risk here though. The Department of Defense and NASA have made it clear that drilling off Virginia’s coast is cause for concern for our military readiness. Both the Navy and Air Force use the open waters off the coast and the airspace above our waters to conduct testing and training activities.
The growing local opposition is not enough. Now is the time for our lawmakers to speak up against the administration’s plans to offer up our coastlines to oil and gas companies.
The clock is ticking. We have less than 30 days to oppose seismic airgun blasting. The National Marine Fisheries Service will make a final decision after the comment period closes on July 6.
Here are four things you can do right now to protect our coast from risky offshore drilling:
1. Sign this petition from Oceana to our Members of Congress.
2. Call Congressman Scott Taylor’s office directly and tell his staff why you want him to oppose offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting: Virginia Beach Office 757-364-7650.
3. Join concerned citizens on June 26 to learn more about this issue and to act:
Brock Environmental Center
3663 Marlin Bay Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
Bottom line, it is important for us all to speak up — drilling off Virginia’s coast is not worth the risk.