Washington D.C. – Tuesday, February 16, 2016 – Today, leaders of the coastal recreation and tourism industry, along with representatives from Surfrider Foundation and Environment America, presented President Obama's staff with a surfboard and letters signed by more than 1,000 coastal businesses in opposition to offshore drilling plans in the Atlantic Ocean. From Florida to Maryland, businesses including restaurants, retailers, surf shops and hotels are expressing concerns that new oil rigs in the Atlantic would be disastrous for coastal communities.
"Our ocean powers a multi-billion dollar ocean tourism and recreation industry that is second to none. We need to advocate for local businesses and the natural resources they depend upon,” says surf industry leader and Vissla CEO Paul Naude. “The East Coast has been protected against offshore drilling for decades, but everything could take a change for the worse in 2017 if the five-year leasing plan goes forward as is. If drilling occurs in the Atlantic, the many businesses that depend on a healthy coastal environment will also be at risk. Despite what pro-drilling advocates say, the threats of new drilling far outweigh the rewards.”
Opposition to drilling in the Atlantic has become a bipartisan cause, with Republicans and Democrats calling for the administration to reverse its position on new drilling in the Atlantic. Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey), Representative G. K. Butterfield (North Carolina), Representative John Carney (Delaware), Representative Kathy Castor (Florida), Representative Gwen Graham (Florida), Representative David Jolly (Florida), Representative Frank Lobiondo (New Jersey), Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (Washington D.C.), Representative Mark Sanford (South Carolina), Representative Chris Smith (New Jersey) and Representative Nydia Velazquez (New York) were among the members of congress to sign the surfboard during a coastal recreation lobby day the previous week.
"It is paramount that we take steps to continue protecting our pristine beaches, our fisheries, our marine sanctuaries, our coastal communities, and our quality of life from the impact of drilling and devastating events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. The bottom line is the economic benefits simply do not outweigh the risks. We can achieve energy independence and national energy security without jeopardizing our natural resources,” stated Congressman David Jolly (Florida).
Many of the businesses have asked their governors to make this same request of the Obama Administration. In South Carolina, under the leadership of citizens groups SODA (Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic) and Don’t Drill Lowcountry, nearly 450 businesses submitted a request to Governor Nikki Haley to call for canceling plans for Atlantic drilling.
“Coastal recreation and tourism on the East Coast generates billions of dollars in economic activity, which would be put in danger if offshore drilling in the Atlantic becomes a reality,” said Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Environmental Director. “This is a critical misstep by the Obama Administration. From the industrialization of our coastlines to the potential for a major oil spill, this program could be catastrophic to all involved. We firmly believe new offshore drilling is not the answer.”
For bait and tackle shops, kayak rental stores, and others whose economic model depends on a clean beach, the business case for opposing drilling is clear. In fact, the National Ocean Economics Program reports that ocean-related tourism and recreation contribute three times the amount of money to the U.S. economy that offshore oil production might. Moreover, industry projections of the benefits of new offshore drilling have been challenged for relying on flawed assumptions, such as the inclusion of oil and gas resources that are not economically recoverable.
“Georgia’s tourism season is crucial to the success of my restaurant,” said Jeff Downey, owner of Circa 1875 restaurant in Savannah, one of the more than 360 businesses who endorsed a letter against drilling organized by Environment America. “The delicious food, the variety of businesses, the opportunity to experience what Georgia’s coast has to offer – it all stands to lose if offshore drilling moves forward.”
"Our customers love our Atlantic beaches and our business relies on a protected coastline. Although we remain dependent on fossil fuels, opening the Atlantic for drilling for the first time in decades would be a big step in the wrong direction,” said Mark Stevens, Patagonia D.C. assistant store manager. Patagonia was the last business to register its opposition to Atlantic drilling by adding a signature to the surfboard.
Last January, the Obama administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed allowing drilling leases in the Mid and South Atlantic regions in its 2017 – 2022 Oil and Gas Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program. The latest version of the drilling plan is expected next month, launching another 90-day comment period. Businesses say they’ll continue to press their case to get the administration to withdraw the Atlantic from consideration for drilling.