February 11, 2018
In his Commentary column, “The rich possibilities for offshore drilling,” Michael Thompson praises the federal government’s proposals to explore and drill for oil and gas off the Virginia coast.
I am the immediate past vice president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association and the co-founder and a board member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic.
The reality is that when you drill, you spill. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reports 2,440 oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico between 1964 and 2015 with 497 oil “accidents” in 2016 — even with new procedures and regulations that are supposed to make offshore drilling safe. The federal government’s own records show that fully 20 percent of all offshore oil spills are due to human error.
The inevitable oil spills and leaks would threaten Virginia’s $4.9 billion coastal tourism economy with its more than 47,000 jobs. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Louisiana’s leisure-visitor spending dropped by $247 million that year. Six weeks after the spill, Gulf Coast hotel cancellation rates rose to 60 percent, and 84 percent of the hotels reported difficulty booking future events.
Oil spills and leaks also threaten our military economy. A recent report indicates that the Department of Defense has classified an estimated 94 percent of the waters off Virginia’s coast as largely incompatible with offshore drilling due to longstanding military operations. In addition to threatening our national security, offshore oil drilling would inevitably lead to the reduction in the approximately $18 billion a year the Department of Defense brings to the Hampton Roads area. Just the relocation of one aircraft carrier would cost the local economy more than $1 billion.
The federal government should keep its hands off Virginia’s coastal waters and our thriving coastal economies.