After all we have done, our coast remains at risk of oil and gas development

08 Aug After all we have done, our coast remains at risk of oil and gas development

Right now, coastal communities along the Atlantic coast are watching closely the review of permit applications from several companies that want to employ seismic testing to find oil and gas off our coast. The Obama Administration is considering these permits, despite the fact through a massive plea from many communities, of which Beaufort was the first, they remove the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf from the 2017-2022 Proposed Leasing Program.

This means even though President Obama clearly heard our communities when we said we do not want to see testing and drilling off of our coast, there is still a possibility that the administration will allow testing companies to traverse our coast testing for oil deposits. This is just a back door for more drilling.

Over Independence Day weekend, a fitting holiday on which to do so, I submitted letters along with fifteen South Carolina coastal mayors to President Obama and his Secretary of Interior. We expressed grave concerns over seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. We also requested that the Obama Administration deny all pending permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

When the Obama Administration removed the Atlantic from oil leasing, communities from Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach and in between breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The 300 Mayors and Councils along the eastern seaboard who passed resolutions and the thousands of businesses who joined us in opposition praised the Administration for listening to the people who would be on the front lines of a coastline scarred by drilling. We also believed that for the next leasing cycle, the Atlantic Ocean was off limits. Which meant no threat of a catastrophic oil spill in our East Coast ecosystems, and no threat of oil refineries in our communities and along our beaches.

But we quickly woke up to the fact that, not withstanding our win in preventing testing and drilling from being in the five year plan, seismic testing is not yet off the table and that is why I am still writing about the issue and asking residents of coastal states to continue to speak up.

Seismic testing is repeated underwater blasting that creates an image of the ocean floor, identifying places to drill for oil and gas. One might wonder why we need to do this testing since no oil will be leased in the Atlantic Ocean for at least the next five years.

Furthermore, it is a little known fact that results of the tests are proprietary—only the companies and the federal government will know the results and those of us on the coast will be kept in the dark as to what if any gas and oil is found. That’s right, their tests in our waters, the potential of drastic threats to our coast line and we will never know what if any significant oil and gas deposits are off our coast. And, accordingly, if they will continue to press on with drilling. This is not right!

Arguably, seismic testing is even more torturous for marine mammals and fish. Repeated pulsing creates blasting sounds louder than jet airplanes – for 24 hours, every ten seconds, for weeks on end. It disrupts vital communications between marine creatures on which they rely for feeding, mating, and travel. It causes hearing loss and abandonment of habitat.

South Carolina, and for the most part all eastern coastal communities, said no to industrialization along our beaches. We also say no to the permanent and cruel damage inflicted on our neighbors who live underwater. We ask President Obama to listen the same way he did with drilling. South Carolinians like to direct what happens in our communities.

We have come together and done a pretty good job of balancing tourism with quality of life. What does not fit in the equation is the industrialization of our coast.