1.4 million call on the Obama administration to end offshore drilling
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Today, representatives from Friends of the Earth, Environment America, Environmental Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Sierra Club, Surfrider and the World Wildlife Fund delivered 1.4 million comments collected from frontline communities, concerned citizens and organizations all over the U.S. to call for no new offshore drilling.
Yesterday marked the closing of a 90-day comment period on the proposed 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The proposal includes 13 lease sales for millions of new acres in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. If the proposed program is approved, it would exacerbate climate disruption and put the already suffering Arctic and Gulf Coast communities at high risk from offshore drilling’s harmful consequences.
From the Gulf to the Atlantic to the Arctic, the message to the Obama administration was unified and simple: The federal government should have nothing to do with the dirty business of offshore drilling. Opening up millions of new acres to offshore drilling is the wrong direction for the health and safety of our communities, wildlife and environment.
The comments called on President Obama to:
- Direct Secretary Jewell to not authorize any new offshore leasing in the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic Ocean;
- Permanently protect the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico from any future oil and gas exploration; and,
- Propose and enact a plan to transition coastal communities to a sustainable, renewable energy economy.
When it comes to offshore drilling, we are winning the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In 2008, the federal government sold 487 leases, approximately 2.7 million acres, of the Chukchi Sea in the U.S.-controlled Arctic Ocean to energy companies to explore and drill for oil. Those companies have since relinquished nearly 80 percent – 2.2 million acres – of those leases. Now, only one lease belonging to Shell remains. When Shell tried to drill there last summer, it met a wave of kayaktivist opposition. In September 2015, Shell announced it would cease its Arctic oil operations for the foreseeable future. Less than a month later, the Obama administration announced the cancellation of all remaining Arctic Ocean oil and gas lease sales through 2017. Finally, due to significant pressure from citizens and businesses along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, the Atlantic Ocean was excluded from the 2017-2022 offshore drilling program.
These victories are monumental, but more can and should be done to protect our oceans and coastal communities. More new leases are being offered in the Gulf of Mexico than anywhere else, despite the fact that the Gulf Coast lies on the front lines of fossil fuel destruction and climate disruption. More than 10,000 spills have been recorded in the Gulf over the past six years, and its waters are blighted by some 27,000 abandoned, leaky wells. Coastal wetlands are shrinking by about one football field every hour due to natural subsidence, sea level rise and thousands of miles of canals carved out by oil and gas companies, forcing many residents to permanently relocate.
The time of treating our oceans and coastlines as zones to pillage, destroy and sacrifice is over. The time to protect, restore and defend has arrived. Keep It in the ground!