Don’t forget, our coast and businesses need lasting protections.
The Trump administration recently protected North Carolina from its own oil drilling plan by offering half-hearted protections from offshore drilling for 10 years.
It’s a welcome change from the radical and reckless proposal to open the entire Atlantic coast to dirty and dangerous drilling. But the fact remains: These partial and politically motivated protections aren’t nearly enough for coastal economies, beaches or communities.
What about the rest of the coast? What happens after 10 years? There is no time stamp on the hazards from drilling and spilling – we need permanent, complete protections, period.
Of a concern, it was the president’s own words that cast doubt on the durability of these claims when he voiced that he can undo these protections when and where he finds convenient.
During a campaign rally one state away in Virginia President Trump noted, “if you want oil rigs out there, just let me know, I’ll take it off … I can change things very easily.” A false promise of protection from toxic oil drilling is not what the people of North Carolina have demanded.
Local businesses and jobs hang in the balance as soon as oil companies expose our environment to toxic pollution. Healthy ocean life along our 300 miles of coastline provides jobs and puts food on the table. When our beaches are open and business is good, North Carolina’s tourism, fishing and recreation industries support almost 57,000 jobs and contribute roughly $2.5 billion in Gross Domestic Product. Oil development – whether it’s now or in 10 years – puts this all at risk because when oil companies drill, they spill.
Between 2007 and 2018, at least 7,000 oil spills occurred in federal waters. While some are more devastating than others, spilling is present at every stage in the drilling process.
Oil pollutes the environment whether companies are exploring, producing or transporting it. Oil doesn’t follow state boundaries either, so a spill off a neighboring state could affect our economy just the same.
Plus, spilling only gets worse with strong winds and flooding from hurricanes – something we’re seeing a lot more of here in North Carolina. Just this year, multiple tropical storms and hurricanes have impacted the state. Hurricane-caused damage to oil and gas infrastructure is a leading cause of oil spills. We can see clear examples of this in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2005, winds and flooding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed more than 100 platforms and damaged more than 500 pipelines there.
Our communities already suffer when surging seas and heavy rains hit the coast from these ever-intensifying storms. Can you imagine if oil rigs and pipelines were added to the mix? When North Carolinians prepare for or recover from big storms, the last thing we need is toxic oil polluting the coast where we live and work.
States along the Atlantic can avoid this economic and environmental headache altogether with real protections from offshore drilling and associated disasters. We need enduring, permanent protections now – before oil companies can move in and forever change our incredible coast.
This administration should know that you can’t cherry pick when it comes to offshore drilling protections. Leaving part of the Atlantic Coast open to oil development means leaving the entire coast open to potential environmental and economic hardship.
The people of North Carolina, as well as every other coastal state, deserve beaches and businesses that never suffer from offshore drilling.
Thankfully, Congress can step in and do the right thing – stop the entire drilling plan and permanently protect our coast for good.
Randy Sturgill is the Southeast senior organizer for Oceana Action, the advocacy partner of Oceana, which protects our oceans from threats like overfishing and pollution, while building political support for advancing Oceana’s goals.
Tom Kies is the president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce and president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.