Washington, D.C. – Virginia's coastal communities won a major victory today, when the Obama administration abandoned its plans to open the southern Atlantic to offshore oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades.
“Today is a victory for Virginia's coastal communities that have been saying for the last year, ‘when you drill you spill,’” said Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia state director. “President Obama heard them and protected our marine life, world famous beaches, family vacations and fisheries.”
Announced last January, the initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan put at risk Virginia's beaches, marine life such as the right whales, sea turtles, and dolphins; and thriving tourism and fishing industries that contribute more than $4 billion in total economic activity. The updated version released today completely removes the Atlantic lease areas from the plan.
Opposition to the drilling proposal had been building for months, particularly among coastal towns and businesses – who view the prospect of offshore oil and gas rigs as a threat to beaches, fisheries, and the Atlantic’s coastal economy.
According to the National Ocean Economics Program, ocean-related tourism and recreation generates three times the amount of economic activity Atlantic drilling is estimated to produce.
Last month, Environment America and colleagues presented Obama officials with letters signed by more than 1,000 East Coast businesses opposed to the drilling proposal.
More than a hundred coastal towns and cities have passed resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing.
While the administration took the Atlantic out of its proposed program, new lease areas for drilling remain in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Last month, environmental groups presented the administration with 2 million signatures from citizens across the country, urging protection for not only the Atlantic, but the Arctic and the remaining unleased portions of the gulf as well.
“We applaud the president for protecting our beaches and coastal way of life from drilling and spilling ,” said Bucci. “But to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we must keep the vast majority of oil, coal, and gas beneath the sea and in the ground. That’s why we urge the president to meet the Paris climate accord and his new agreement with Canada, and take all new drilling off the table.”