August 14, 2017
Public News Service
By Dan Heyman
RICHMOND, Va. — The public has until Thursday to comment on the first step towards a proposal that could open the Virginia coast to offshore drilling.
The Trump administration may roll back an Obama-era plan to make much of the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil and gas exploration and development. Attorney Steve Mashuda with Earthjustice’s oceans program said Obama’s position was driven in part by an outpouring of public opposition from individuals, businesses and local governments.
He said many on the coast feel oil leaks and spills would be just too damaging.
“Vibrant fishing communities up and down the Atlantic coast; vital tourist economy, driven by the clean waters – oil and gas drilling off those shores is just not worth the risk,” Mashuda said.
Some in the Trump administration describe offshore drilling as part of an energy policy that increases domestic production and boosts jobs. But critics argue it would put important coastal job creators at risk.
Laura Wood Habr is a Virginia Beach restaurant owner who helped found the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast. She said that group represents 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families along the Atlantic coast.
She said those communities would see few jobs and little tax money from the drilling, and they don’t need help with energy or economic development.
“Tourism’s growing, our military’s growing, and so is our seafood industry,” Habr said. “There’s not any revenue-sharing for the state of Virginia, so there’s no benefit. It’s all risk and no benefit.”
Another issue is the air gun surveys that would come before the drilling. Mashuda said the sonic survey craft would tow the air guns around hundreds of miles of coastal waters, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, blasting constantly for months.
“Fire every 10 to 15 seconds with incredibly loud sounds, loud enough to deafen permanently whales and other marine mammals that depend on sound,” he said. “Loud enough to cause physical injury.”
Comments can be filed online with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, at boem.gov/Submitting-Comments.