CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Responding to concerns from hundreds of Southeast communities, businesses, and tourism groups, President Obama on Tuesday killed a controversial offshore drilling plan for the Atlantic Ocean that opponents said could have changed coastal communities and crippled coastal economies.
“This is an incredible day for the Southeast,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It represents the hard work of thousands of people and protects some of our most cherished places, from the Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks to the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia barrier islands. Communities along the Atlantic have been strongly unified against this plan, and we are grateful the President listened.”
More than 100 coastal communities including major cities like Wilmington, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., as well as coastal towns like Kure Beach, N.C., were joined by hundreds of businesses, trade groups, and tourism associations to formally adopt resolutions against offshore drilling.
“This decision reflects a host of reasons not to open the Atlantic to drilling, including the intense opposition from local communities, concerns from the Department of Defense about how drilling would impact military activities, and a different economic and energy outlook,” Weaver said. “We appreciate that the Administration took the time to hear from all sides of this issue and make the right decision.”
An economic study released in 2015 showed the petroleum industry’s promises of income and jobs were vastly overstated. Further, it showed the region’s established ocean economy based on tourism and fishing eclipsed even the inflated projections for drilling jobs.
The plan previously under consideration proposed opening the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia through Georgia to oil and gas leasing. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public hearings on the issue turned out record opposition to offshore drilling in these areas, including over 600 people at a single meeting in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Opponents cited concerns about impacts that industrialization and pollution would have on their homes and businesses, noting that even without a disaster like the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling could destroy what they hold dear about the Southeast coast. Now that the Atlantic has been removed, it cannot be added back into consideration for the upcoming leasing plan.
“The hero in this fight is not one person or one city or one group,” Weaver said. “It is a collection of determined communities and elected leaders from both parties that banded together to protect their coasts.”