What started with a 300-person protest in a single town against offshore oil development has turned into a full-blown resolution revolution that has swept the nation – now 300 municipalities strong. On August 8, Oceana helped Thunderbolt, Georgia to become the 300th municipality to formally oppose the expansion of oil and gas activities off their shores. The recent flood of opposition is in large part backlash to President Trump and Secretary Zinke’s proposal to radically expand dirty and dangerous drilling activities to nearly all U.S. waters.
The staunch opposition to offshore drilling and exploration we see today is the culmination of Oceana’s hard fought, mostly uphill battle to protect our coast. Years ago, concerned coastal residents began to voice their disapproval of potential oil rigs dotting their horizon and leaky pipes scattered across their shoreline. Oceana helped sow the seeds of a grassroots movement that few believed would make any headway against deep pocketed oil interests.
Kure Beach – a small town on the North Carolina coast known for its charm and picturesque beaches – was the flash point in the fight against drilling in the Atlantic. Late in 2013, the mayor of Kure Beach penned a letter endorsing seismic airgun blasting off the coast. Seismic airgun blasting is an incredibly loud and harmful technique used to search for potential oil and gas deposits deep below the seafloor, and it paves the way to a future of offshore drilling. The Mayor sent his letter to the federal government behind the backs of his townspeople. When residents caught wind, Kure Beach was in uproar. At the next town council meeting, over 300 people showed up to protest the mayor’s action and defend the fate of their coast.
Oceana’s education and outreach efforts resulted in an infectious anti-drilling sentiment up and down the coast. Neighboring North Carolina towns began to realize just how much was at stake with offshore drilling on the horizon and local governments started passing formal resolutions of their own against drilling activities. This kind of community reaction to offshore drilling and exploration has been replicated time and time again.
Oceana is helping to unite coastal communities up and down the Pacific and Atlantic. Regardless of party lines or prerogative, communities from Florida to Maine and Washington to California agree on one thing – expanded offshore oil activities could swiftly and irreversibly destroy their favorite beaches, healthy ocean ecosystems, thriving coastal economies and the very fabric of their local communities
The movement gained so much momentum that three years after President Obama proposed drilling in the Atlantic and concerns were first voiced in Kure Beach – the federal government finally listened. The Obama administration protected the Atlantic from both offshore drilling and harmful seismic airgun blasting, siding with the enormous public opposition, economic concerns from thriving businesses and military conflicts. Coastal communities breathed a sigh of relief, knowing their coastal way of life and ocean resources were protected.
All of that changed in April 2017, when President Trump issued an executive order to set drilling plans back in motion. The new proposal reversed protections achieved for the Atlantic and simultaneously expanded the threat of drilling to the Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean and off Florida's Gulf Coast. In total, the plan would open nearly all federal waters to future oil and gas leasing.
Still, Oceana’s work and the wall of community opposition first tested in Kure Beach stands strong and continues to grow. In 2018 alone, over 125 municipalities have gone on-the-record, asking President Trump to protect their coast from the expansion of offshore drilling and exploration. To date, every East and West Coast governor except one has voiced concerns with oil and gas development off their coast. Over 1,900 local, state and federal elected officials have opposed these risky drilling activities. Military voices like the Department of Defense, Air Force, Florida Defense Support Task Force and NASA have come out in opposition too. Alliances representing more than 43,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have stated that offshore drilling is a direct threat to the continued success of their businesses. Across the board, it’s the same: offshore drilling is not worth the risks.
The opposition continues to grow and shows no sign of letting up. Coastal residents and governments depend upon healthy ocean resources, swimmable waters and oil-free beaches to make a living. Oceana stands with coastal communities urging President Trump to defend our nation’s clean coast economy from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. The resolution revolution is now three hundred strong. We won this battle before, and we will not back down.