The Surfrider Foundation and leaders of the coastal recreation and tourism industry on Thursday presented Department of Interior representatives with a surfboard and letters signed by more than 1,000 coastal businesses and elected officials in opposition to new offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. From Florida to Maine and California to Washington State, businesses including restaurants, retailers, surf shops and hotels are expressing concerns that new offshore oil and gas development would be disastrous for coastal communities.
"Clean water and healthy beaches are critical drivers of our coastal economies and provide over two million jobs and $114 billion in spending in the U.S. annually," said Firewire Surfboard CEO Mark Price. "As co-owner of a coastal business, offshore oil drilling makes no sense for the coasts, ocean, the planet, or our business."
Businesses dependent on a clean coastal environment are taking action to protect the ocean and coasts. On the East Coast, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast consists of 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families that are opposed to offshore oil drilling. The Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast also recently launched with more than 1,000 members.
"The health of our ocean and beaches is critical to support our nation's coastal tourism, recreation and fishing industries, which are significant contributors to the U.S. economy," said Roger Spatz, president of Reef and Eagle Creek. "At Reef, we see offshore oil drilling as a clear danger to coastal economies, communities and our ocean, waves and beaches. We will continue to stand up and work to keep them protected and pristine for future generations."
Opposition to offshore drilling also includes bipartisan representation. Republicans and Democrats have called for the administration to reverse its position on new drilling, including:
● Governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, California, Oregon and Washington all announced their opposition to offshore oil drilling.
● 37 senators, most of whom represent coastal states affected by the proposal, sent a letter to Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke expressing strong opposition to the department's plans to expand offshore drilling to new areas.
● Florida's entire federal delegation of 29 lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis expressing concerns over expanded offshore drilling.
● 16 federal lawmakers from the Pacific Northwest sent a letter to Zinke opposing offshore drilling off Oregon and Washington.
● More than 150 municipalities on the East Coast and West Coast have passed resolutions against offshore drilling.
● The California Senate, California State Lands Commission, California Fish & Game Commission and California Coastal Commission have all passed resolutions against offshore drilling.
"I believe the potential consequences of offshore drilling and exploration outweigh the possible benefit," said New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith (R-4th Dist). "In short, New Jersey's pristine beaches, marine ecosystem and economy are far too important to take a chance on drilling."
Even when there is not a spill and everything goes "right," the process of oil drilling releases thousands of gallons of polluted water into the ocean, called drilling muds. These muds are generally unregulated and contain toxins such as benzene, zinc, arsenic, radioactive materials and other contaminants. High concentrations of metals have been found around drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and a study by the Pew Charitable Trust concluded that a single oil well discharges up to 2,000 tons of waste material.
"Our nation's coastal tourism, recreation and fishing industries, which are built around clean water and healthy beaches, provide 12 times as many jobs as that created by offshore drilling," said Pete Stauffer, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation. "We will continue to work together with the many businesses, communities, and elected officials that have already demonstrated opposition against the expansion of destructive new oil drilling to fight for the protection of our ocean, coasts and communities for the future."