Organizations, politicians react to Obama's reversal on Atlantic -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Organizations, politicians react to Obama's reversal on Atlantic oil drilling

(Source: AP Images) (Source: AP Images)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Several groups and individuals were quick to provide reactions to the Obama administration’s decision to not allow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement Tuesday on Twitter, declaring that the administration's next five-year offshore drilling plan "protects the Atlantic for future generations."

The South Environmental Law Center released the following statement:

Charlottesville, VA – Responding to concerns from hundreds of Southeast communities, businesses, and tourism groups, President Obama today killed a controversial offshore drilling plan for the Atlantic Ocean that opponents said could have changed coastal communities and crippled coastal economies.

“This is an incredible day for the Southeast,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It represents the hard work of thousands of people and protects some of our most cherished places, from the Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks to the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia barrier islands. Communities along the Atlantic have been strongly unified against this plan, and we are grateful the President listened.”

More than 100 coastal communities including major cities like Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah, as well as coastal towns like Kure Beach, N.C. were joined by hundreds of businesses, trade groups, and tourism associations to formally adopt resolutions against offshore drilling.

“This decision reflects a host of reasons not to open the Atlantic to drilling, including the intense opposition from local communities, concerns from the Department of Defense about how drilling would impact military activities, and a different economic and energy outlook,” Weaver said. “We appreciate that the Administration took the time to hear from all sides of this issue and make the right decision.”

An economic study released in 2015 showed the petroleum industry’s promises of income and jobs were vastly overstated. Further, it showed the region’s established ocean economy based on tourism and fishing eclipsed even the inflated projections for drilling jobs.

The plan previously under consideration proposed opening the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia through Georgia to oil and gas leasing. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public hearings on the issue turned out record opposition to offshore drilling in these areas, including over 600 people at a single meeting in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Opponents cited concerns about impacts that industrialization and pollution would have on their homes and businesses, noting that even without a disaster like the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling could destroy what they hold dear about the Southeast coast. Now that the Atlantic has been removed, it cannot be added back into consideration for the upcoming leasing plan.

“The hero in this fight is not one person or one city or one group,” Weaver said. “It is a collection of determined communities and elected leaders from both parties that banded together to protect their coasts.”

Three congressmen who are co-chairs of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus jointly released this statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Co-Chairs of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-03), and Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02) responded to the administration’s removal of the planned oil and natural gas lease sale off the southeast Atlantic coast.

“I’m disappointed the administration is reversing course and ignoring broad bipartisan support for oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” said Rep. Hudson (NC-08). “This is a disservice to folks all across the southeast who deserve this incredible opportunity to unleash our natural resources, create jobs and boost our economy. I will continue to be on the front lines of this debate and work to get North Carolina into the energy business.”

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that this Administration would once again choose placating his political allies over helping the economic needs of the American people,” said Rep. Duncan (SC-03). “We know that offshore energy development can be done safely and that it creates tens of thousands of jobs. We know that our economy needs the long term boost that energy jobs can provide. We’ve also seen transformative impact that energy revenue can have on state budgets, helping finance infrastructure needs and contributing to conservation efforts.”

“I agreed with President Obama when he called for an all-of-the-above American energy strategy, and supported his draft proposal in 2015 to open the Atlantic coast for energy exploration,” said Rep. Rigell (VA-02). “The actions taken by the Obama Administration today are not only deeply disappointing; they starkly contradict the President’s own words and do not reflect a commitment to growing our local and national economies. We can create 25,000 good-paying jobs for Virginians if we properly leverage our offshore resources. But the President’s restrictions complicate this path forward. In the days and weeks ahead, I will work with my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as the Department of the Interior, to maximize our offshore energy potential.”

Reps. Hudson, Duncan and Rigell serve as Co-Chairmen of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus, a committee that works to advance policies that explore and expand energy production in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf as part of an all-of-the-above national energy strategy.

Oceana, an international advocacy organization focused on ocean conservation, “declared victory” with this statement:

WASHINGTON– Today, the Obama administration made a historic move to protect the East Coast from offshore drilling. In the newly proposed five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management removed the Atlantic Ocean for leasing from 2017 to 2022. While Oceana applauded the Obama administration for listening to widespread opposition along the East Coast, it continues to urge the government to stop seismic airgun use in the Atlantic and not to hold new lease sales in the remote and unforgiving Arctic Ocean.

In response to the newly proposed plan, Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for the U.S., released the following statement:

“President Obama has taken a giant step for our oceans, for coastal economies and for mitigating climate change. This is a courageous decision that begins the shift to a new energy paradigm, where clean energy replaces fossil fuels, and where we can avoid the worst impacts of decades of our carbon dioxide emissions.

This is a victory for people over politics and shows the importance of old fashioned grassroots organizing. It will prevent oil spills and coastal industrialization; it makes seismic testing unnecessary and it will help promote the clean energy solutions that we so desperately need.

With this decision coastal communities have won a ‘David vs. Goliath’ fight against the richest companies on the planet, and that is a cause for tremendous optimism for the well-being of future generations.

On behalf of Oceana and all those that are opposed to offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, we thank you, President Obama, for seeing that offshore drilling along the East Coast is an unnecessary risk to nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product. This includes fishery and tourism economies that rely on healthy oceans.

Our nation has seen the devastation that comes from offshore drilling, and the benefits are simply not worth the risks. Over the last two years, Oceana has built and led a powerful grassroots movement to demonstrate the broad-based and diverse opposition to this dirty and dangerous activity. President Obama is listening to the voices of coastal citizens from 110 East Coast municipalities, as well as more than 100 Members of Congress, 700 state and local elected officials and 1,100 business interests that have all publically opposed offshore drilling and seismic airgun use.

With offshore drilling off the table in the Atlantic, there is absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by seismic airguns in that area. We urge the President to go further and to stop seismic airgun use, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. Seismic airgun permits are still being pursued in an area of the Atlantic that is twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. With no drilling plans in sight, there is absolutely no reason to put more than 100,000 marine mammals in harm’s way, in fact doing so would be appallingly irresponsible. The noise from seismic airgun blasting is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is akin to the distance between Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas.

Oceana also continues to urge the Obama administration to stop new lease sales from taking place in the remote and unforgiving Arctic Ocean. Offering new leases in the Arctic Ocean is bad fiscal and environmental policy, and future lease sales would be inconsistent with the commitments to which President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau made in their historic agreement just last week.

The push for offshore drilling in the Arctic puts unique and diverse ecosystems at risk. It has led to controversy, litigation, government investigations and, in 2012, near disaster. There is no good reason to continue down that path by selling even more leases in the Arctic Ocean. Companies are not ready to operate safely, have not explored the leases they already own, and many have walked away from leases they bought over the last decade. We need a fresh start based on science and precaution when it comes to the Arctic, not more business as usual.

Whether or not another oil company ever comes to the U.S. Arctic, it is still valuable to know where the important places in the ocean are. Identifying and protecting important ecological areas is a necessary step toward ensuring the long-term health of the ocean. We are encouraged that the government is continuing its progress toward science-based planning in the Arctic and urge President Obama to expand this approach and remove the Chukchi and Beaufort seas from the final five-year program.”

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