A public forum in Lewes March 3 gave the public an opportunity to hear from several leaders of environmental organizations, elected officials, business owners, and affiliates of the fishing industry of the Delmarva Peninsula about their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.
This event drew a standing-room-only crowd of concerned citizens from all backgrounds to the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment Cannon Lab. A panel of representatives from various backgrounds drew attention to the negative effects, both short- and long-term, that offshore drilling and a proposed leasing program could have, not only on the community economically and environmentally, but also on marine wildlife.
In December 2016, under the Obama administration, the Atlantic Coast was to be protected from offshore drilling and exploration. More recently, the Trump administration reversed that policy and reopened the idea of allowing offshore exploration, despite the estimated oil availability being less than one year of the nation’s current oil consumption.
“Get activated and motivated to oppose offshore drilling, and work with each other and the organizations that have aided our community in having a voice. Work with us to protect our oceans and coastlines,” said Charlie Garlow of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, emphasizing it will take a collective effort to overcome current policies that would grant offshore drilling operations and testing.
Garlow was joined by other representatives from environmental groups based both in Delaware and across the country. Despite focusing on diverse environmental agendas, all the organizations that attended as well as numerous local and state governments oppose the possibility of offshore drilling. Garlow was joined by Cathy Phillips of the Assateague Coastal Trust, Lisa Lock of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, Matt Heim of the nonprofit organization Oceana, Debbie Heaton of the Sierra Club, Kevin Chandler of Surfrider Foundation and Suzanne Thurman of MERR Institute.
The presentations outlined specific effects of offshore drilling and other methods of testing. Panel members said the measures in question were a misuse of taxpayer funds that would disturb the natural environment; disrupt Delaware’s tourism industry in beach towns, which accounts for $7 billion annually; and possibly result in catastrophe in the case of an oil spill, which could seriously alter health, home, and happiness for coastal residents for years to come.
“We have seen disasters occur from drilling in the past, such as Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon. These events have forever changed our environment. Oil companies fail to see the long-term effects that can occur in exchange for the short-term financial gain,” said Thurman. These views were echoed by Kevin Chandler of Surfrider, who explained there is a greater risk due to the lack of infrastructure to transport oil if drilling were to become a reality. Pipeline transportation or tanker transportation both would cause drastic changes to the environment, he said, noting the proposal states there is no guarantee an oil spill will not occur.
“Climate change and oceanic science has not changed. It has only gained momentum to prevent operations like this from occurring,” added Matt Heim.
An operation like this would not only include drilling and construction of offshore oil-drilling sites, but a technique called seismic testing which uses sound waves that can harm marine life, causing animals that rely on sound for navigation to stray from migratory patterns and even die.
“It is our moral responsibility to prevent this from happening and to continue to inform,” said Lisa Lock.
The evidence presented at the forum supported opposition to testing because of its consequences and urged the public to comment against drilling. The comment period will remain open until Friday, March 9.
To comment, go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=BOEM-2017-0074 or text “OCEAN” to 52886.