Ted Danson, Kate Walsh & Sam Waterston Join Coastal Leaders in Washington to Urge President Obama to Abandon Atlantic Drilling
Oceana’s Coastal Voices Summit Unites Atlantic Leaders Against Offshore Drilling and Seismic Airgun Blasting, Celebrates 100+ East Coast Municipalities Standing Up to Big Oil
Press Release Date: January 27, 2016
WASHINGTON – Last night, Ted Danson, Kate Walsh and Sam Waterston joined approximately 100 coastal leaders, hailing from Delaware to Florida, in Washington, D.C. to urge President Obama to abandon his plan to open the Atlantic Ocean to industrial offshore drilling for the first time in U.S. history. Oceana’s Coastal Voices Summit, which unites Atlantic leaders against offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting and celebrates more than 100 East Coast municipalities standing up to Big Oil, comes as the Obama administration prepares to release its updated proposals for these activities in the coming weeks. To view photos from the event, please click here.
“Atlantic coastal towns have turned ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ into ‘Stop the Drill,’ and that rallying cry is getting louder along the East Coast,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for the U.S. “These local elected officials and business leaders came to Washington to make their voices heard. They’re here to tell President Obama – ‘our communities don’t want offshore drilling off our coast; take the Atlantic out of your drilling plans’.”
The main event, which took place Tuesday at the Jack Morton Auditorium on The George Washington University campus, was followed by a lobby day on Capitol Hill Wednesday, January 27, where Walsh and Atlantic leaders met with federal elected and appointed officials to stress the importance of protecting the East Coast from offshore drilling exploration and development.
“It has only been six years since the Gulf oil spill, and it seems as if our government has forgotten that it ever occurred,” said Kate Walsh, actress and ocean advocate. “Everywhere we’ve drilled, we’ve spilled, and it’s time to stop this dirty and dangerous cycle before it starts in the Atlantic. It’s time for President Obama to say no to East Coast drilling.”
Currently, the Obama administration is considering opening a large swath of the Atlantic to offshore drilling, spanning from Virginia to Georgia. At the same time, the federal government is considering the use of seismic airguns to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida.
Coastal opposition to these activities continues to mount. As of today, 102 East Coast municipalities, 100 Members of Congress, over 660 state and local elected officials and roughly 750 business interests have all publically opposed offshore drilling, citing threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.
Below are statements from just a few of the Atlantic leaders in attendance at the Summit.
“Virginia’s tourism, lodging and restaurant industries are united against drilling off our state’s coast, and I’m in in Washington, DC to urge my elected officials to speak out against this dangerous proposal,” said Laura Wood Habr, co-owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro and vice president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association. “Tourism is Virginia Beach’s biggest economic engine—it directly supported nearly 13,000 jobs in 2014, and restaurant sales have exceeded $1 billion for the past two years. It is short-sighted and ill-advised to put a proven, thriving industry at risk when the threats of offshore drilling far outweigh any potential jobs or economic gain. The federal government will be making a decision in the next few weeks that will influence the fate of our industry for generations to come—my governor, senators and congressional representatives need to hear us, and speak out now.”
“Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous. The question is not whether there will be another spill, but when,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, North Carolina General Assembly. “Governor McCrory seems to have forgotten all about the damage caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and all the spills that have happened since. I’m here to urge the Obama administration and my elected federal representatives to listen to all the North Carolinians who want to protect our coast from offshore drilling and seismic testing as well as the impacts of climate change. Thirty municipalities in our state have passed resolutions opposing these activities—it’s long past time that they are heard.”
“As a trained petroleum engineer and former ‘roustabout’ on offshore drilling rigs, I can tell you firsthand that working on the rigs is a risky job,” said Peg Howell, owner of Howell Consulting Group and spokesperson for Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA), based in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. “Serious things happened out there, but I really did love my job. I’ve also seen firsthand what offshore drilling does to coastal communities, and I will tell you that it has no place along the Atlantic coast. This is a forever-decision. Just look to the Pacific—those oil and gas fields were drilled 50 years ago, and they are still causing damage to the California coastline, even though West Coast governors put a moratorium on new drilling over 30 years ago. We can’t let drilling in the Atlantic be our legacy.”
“Recently, we delivered a letter to Governor Nikki Haley that was signed by over 430 small business owners asking her to change her position and oppose offshore drilling,” said Frank Knapp, Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “The small businesses of South Carolina understand that allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic would be a disastrous business decision for states with economies dependent on coastal tourism. The hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on a healthy tourism economy are thus dependent on a healthy ocean. No small business owner or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, other than the petroleum industry, would risk their successful business by starting an incompatible side business. Only foolish politicians would even think of doing such a thing.”
“The world needs to move away from a carbon-based economy and carbon-based fuels as quickly as possible,” said Hunter Miller, activist with the Environmental Youth Council in St. Augustine, Florida. “We shouldn’t invest any more time or resources in developing new sources of oil that will further damage the oceans. Our way of life, and the life of the planet, depends on us keeping carbon in the ground. Last year, 300 of us marched across the historic Bridge of Lions and called on Florida’s elected officials to say NO to seismic blasting and offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Today, I’m in Washington, DC to say the same thing to President Obama and to our leaders on Capitol Hill.”
“As a Navy Sonar Specialist, we used whales and dolphins to understand how sound propagates underwater,” said Johnny Miller, mayor of Fernandina Beach, Florida. “Sound is everything to them. Their environment is already saturated with noise from ship propellers and civilian and military sonar. I know this because I’ve heard it. To consider further impacting this already severely altered environment in search of oil is not only ethically wrong, it’s an embarrassment to us as a species. It is our duty as stewards of these coastal areas to take a stand to protect these amazing creatures.”
“Offshore drilling along the Gullah/Geechee Coast would not only open up our sea life to potential harm, but would risk cultural heritage treasures and the fisheries of the Gullah/Geechee Nation,” said Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. “The coastal region from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida is a national heritage area, and this congressionally provided designation should be taken into consideration by all federal divisions. Why vote to nationally protect a cultural community and its tangible and intangible resources but support an effort that can potentially bring irreversible harm to the environment, from which this rich community and culture have grown and been sustained since the 1600s?”
To watch Oceana’s short video about the growing opposition to Atlantic drilling, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfugAV7BWoE.
For more information, please visit www.StopTheDrill.org.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.