11 • 20 • 2016

Let’s Protect Our Coasts From New Offshore Drilling Forever!

By Pete Stauffer

Why the next few weeks may be critical for protecting U.S. coastlines from new offshore oil drilling

Back in March, the Surfrider Foundation and our partners won a huge victory when the Obama Administration announced it was canceling plans to allow oil drilling off the Mid- and South Atlantic coast. The decision became official last week when the Administration released its final 5 Year Offshore Drilling Plan, which protects not only the Atlantic, but also the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, West Coast and Arctic Ocean from oil and gas leasing for 2017-2022.   

Yet, as we celebrate this tremendous achievement for the many communities, groups, businesses, and citizens who spoke out against new offshore oil drilling, we must also heed the prophetic words of environmentalist David Brower who famously said, “All of our victories are temporary, and all of our defeats are permanent.”

On January 20, the U.S. Presidency will transfer to Donald J. Trump who has vowed repeatedly to expand oil and gas development under his Administration. On the Trump transition website, the President Elect plainly states his intent to “open offshore leasing on federal lands and waters” and “streamline the permitting process for all energy projects”.

In response to this imminent threat, Surfrider is working with our partners to establish permanent protections for our coastlines that would preclude Trump or his successors from expanding offshore drilling in U.S. waters. Specifically, we’re urging President Obama to exercise his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act (OCSLA) to forever “withdraw” the Atlantic, Pacific, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Arctic from future oil and gas leasing.

On November 14, Surfrider submitted a packet of letters from over 30 individual chapters and hundreds of recreation industry leaders to the White House and Secretary of the Interior urging the Obama Administration to permanently protect our coasts from oill and gas development. The letters call upon our outgoing President to ensure our marine ecosystems and coastal economies will be protected from any new offshore drilling and related seismic airgun blasting.

Please ask President Obama to permanently protect our coasts from new offshore drilling click here

On the Atlantic Coast, Surfrider is seeking to capitalize on the momentum of our Protect the Atlantic campaign, which helped inspire over 120 communities, 1,100 businesses and over 1,200 federal, state and local legislators to oppose oil and gas exploration or development in the Atlantic. In February, Surfrider chapters and recreation industry leaders visited Washington D.C. and met with White House staff and over 50 congressional offices to demonstrate grassroots opposition to oil rigs off the East Coast. It is abundantly clear that Atlantic coastal communities want to protect their marine resources, local economies and way of life from the threat of oil and gas development.  

In the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Surfrider has vocally opposed offshore drilling for years through our Florida Chapter Network. The region is currently protected from oil drilling through the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act (GOMESA) which prohibits any drilling new activities in the Eastern Gulf. However, GOMESA is set to expire in 2022, making the region vulnerable to future oil drilling as the political climate shifts. We therefore hope to secure action from the Obama Administration to protect the Eastern Gulf's marine resources and communities from the impacts of drilling.

On the West Coast, Surfrider chapters have worked for decades to stop new offshore drilling through community outreach, testimony at public hearings, and countless meetings with elected officials. We have helped build a political firewall to block new oil rigs off California, Oregon, and Washington and this political leadership was on display last week as the 6 West Coast U.S. Senators co-signed a letter to President Obama urging him to permanently withdraw the West Coast from any future oil and gas leasing. The Surfrider Foundation strongly supports this effort and will continue to advocate for protection of the Pacific Coast from offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting.

Finally, the Arctic Ocean is an international treasure that must be protected for its ecological value and importance to indigenous cultures. There is no proven technology to drill safely in Arctic and no way to clean up oil once it enters the harsh and remote environment. Surfrider Foundation strongly supports protecting this special place from any future oil and gas development. 

Ask Obama to permanently protect our coasts click here

Visit our Protect the Atlantic campaign page click here

Watch the Protect the Atlantic video click here