BP’s exploration well, 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, was blown away. The explosion killed 11 people and delivered 210 million gallons of oil to the waters of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, polluting more than 1,100 miles of coastal swamps and beaches, eight years ago, on April 20, 2010. It took 87 days to finally cover the well and we saw on the underwater camera and sent the seemingly endless crude oil to the bay. It has been named disaster since that time. Perhaps the disaster has been curbed and the environment has been rescued but you never think about 8 year later, it still haunts off-shore drilling industry a lot.
The southeastern community boldly refused to drill on our shores. In 2015 when the Obama administration first proposed to open the Atlantic to oil and gas development, the majority of people living and working here opposed the plan and called on their elected leaders and governments to protect our coastal communities and the economy from the risk offshore drilling. Today, over more than 190 East Coast communities, as well as thousands of businesses, trade groups, fisheries and tourism associations have come out against Atlantic drilling and seismic air gun investigations. In my own state of South Carolina, every mayor of each coastal city and our state capital and our governor are opposed to seismic surveys and drilling. They are Republicans and Democrats because protecting our shores is not a partisan issue – actually it is about protecting our oceans, our livelihoods, our health, and everything that makes our state and coastal communities special.
We know that it will not be like to destroy our pristine coast as we saw it in the Gulf of Mexico by taking a catastrophic spill. Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous industry. Between 1964 and 2015, a total of 2,440 oil spills occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, causing more than 12 million gallons of oil to be dumped in the Gulf region – excluding the catastrophic deep water horizon oil spill that exceeded 200 million gallons.
A recent study by the non-partisan grassroots organization Atlantic Offshore Drilling Company (SODA) showed that visitors to the South Carolina coast spent more than $16 billion in 2017. The analysis determined that from 2022 (the first well can be drilled) to 2041, the cumulative economic value of direct tourism from coastal tourism may exceed $602 billion. This is about 25 times the best case estimate of the API for the South Carolina oil industry over the same period.
Offshore infrastructure, pipelines, ship traffic and pollution accompanied by offshore drilling will destroy our beautiful beaches, healthy swamps and rivers. It will permanently change dozens of national wildlife sanctuaries, national coasts, national protected areas and ecologically important marine areas. For our economy, our communities, tourism and fisheries, and for our environment, the most important thing is that for our children and grandchildren, the risks are not worth it.