Uncharted Waters: Offshore Drilling Along the Eastern Seaboard

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In January Secretary Ryan Zinke of the United States Department of Interior announced a proposal that would open over 90 percent of Outer Continental Shelf for offshore drilling. The proposal is part of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Interior, the Draft Proposed Program includes “47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas,” nine of which are located in the Atlantic Region. This gives energy companies access to leases off the coast of California as well as over a billion acres along the Eastern Seaboard and the Arctic.

Although this proposal is only the beginning of what could be an 18-month process in developing a definitive National OCS Program, citizens and leaders across the Southeast  are outraged.

Immediately after the Zinke’s announcement, Governor Rick Scott of Florida expressed opposition to the proposal as tourism was hit hard after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010. As a result, Florida was removed from the proposal.

On Twitter, Zinke wrote, “I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

On March 5, 227 members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators signed a letter in opposition to the proposal that would be sent to Zinke. The signatures represent legislators from 17 coastal states.

But politicians are not the only ones that have expressed stiff resistance to the plan. Coastal communities are concerned about their health and their economies. In 2015, a report published by Oceana found that offshore drilling could put nearly 1.4 million jobs at risk.

The National OCS Program would also reverse President Barack Obama’s permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic and Eastern Seaboard and upend efforts to protect and preserve our planet’s ocean ecosystems.

Despite severe opposition from the governors of California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Virginia and Oregon, Florida is still the only state that remains exempt from the plan. 

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