Protect Our Coast from Offshore Drilling

The U.S. Administration is proposing a plan to open 90% of our coastal waters within the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and gas drilling and will allow auctioning of permanently protected areas to industrial development and seismic testing. This would make it the largest land lease in history and the first time many areas have been open for drilling since the 1980s.

The proposal directly affects our coral reef systems, including Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the northernmost coral reef system on the U.S. continental shelf. Like all reefs, the area is an essential habitat for fish and other marine species to thrive. The risk of spills (like BP’s $1.9 billion spill in the Gulf of Mexico) endangers fishing and local tourism industries and the millions of people who rely on a healthy ocean for jobs and food.  In addition, drilling and potential spills could cause irreversible damage to reefs already deeply impacted by previous bleaching events.

Big barrel sponge at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Image Courtesy Emma Hickerson/NOAA, in collaboration with The Ocean Agency.

A group of 15 bipartisan governors from coastal states are speaking out in opposition, inspired by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), who demanded (and received) an exemption from the plan. Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina (D) are pushing hard to exempt their states too:

 

“As governors from two different parties, we may not agree on everything, but when it comes to growing the economy of our states, creating jobs, and keeping our constituents safe and our waters clean, we stand together.”

 

There is still time. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is now accepting public feedback on the proposal through March 9th. According to William Brown, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Chief Environmental Officer, state input is taken seriously and has resulted in past drilling plans being scaled back. If communities can come together against the proposed plan before it is finalized, we may have a shot at saving our reefs and our shores from the harmful effects of offshore drilling.

 


 

Here’s how you can take action:

 

  • Host a screening. Organize a Chasing Coral screening to share the importance of a healthy ocean and mobilize your community to participate in the public comment period. Add “OFFSHORE DRILLING” in the “tell us more about your plans” field when registering.

 

I oppose the administration’s offshore drilling plan.  Marine life and coral reef ecosystems are already vanishing from the warming of our ocean linked to fossil fuel emissions. The risk of spills threatens income and jobs from tourism and fishing industries that rely on a healthy ocean. This plan is the wrong direction for our ocean, our environment, and our economy. We can meet our future energy needs with investment in clean energy rather than furthering our dependence on fossil fuels.

 

  • Join a public meeting. Share feedback during open-session meetings already scheduled and occurring throughout the country. You can also attend virtually if you can’t make it in person!

 

 

  • Spread the word far and wide. Use our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter to amplify the issue on your own channels before the open public comment period ends on March 9th.