Drilling has not occurred off our Atlantic coast for almost 30 years, and thus information on the possible effects of Atlantic drilling “is 30 years out of date,” as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently pointed out.
Revealed at a Department of Interior workshop in Williamsburg in December 2008, large data gaps exist when it comes to endangered and protected species, fish and fisheries, the benthos and biology of the ocean floor, the ecosystems found in Virginia’s offshore ocean canyons and coral reefs, as well as physical and geological oceanography.
In the interest of thorough environmental study, Salazar is rightly resistant to the rush to drill that is currently sweeping Virginia. For not only are there huge gaps in the scientific information needed to evaluate the impact of drilling off Virginia’s coast, but Virginia’s offshore zone is a small microcosm in a much larger coastal and oceanic ecosystem.
Not only are there huge data gaps, but Virginia, alone on the Atlantic coast in being offered for 2011 lease sale, cannot legitimately be studied as a small microcosm of a larger coastal and oceanic ecosystem. Rather than singling out a small area off a single state, the Atlantic coast as a whole must be studied. After all, ocean waters, migrating marine animals, and oil spills don’t know state boundaries.
Our precious Chesapeake Bay, our sensitive coastal environments, and our highly lucrative tourism and fishing industries, which are completely dependent on clean beaches and healthy ocean waters, deserve nothing less than thorough environmental study.
Instead, let us expedite responsibly sited offshore wind development. Our wind resources vastly exceed the energy potential of all the oil and gas thought to lie off our shores, without the huge risks to the environment, Navy and NASA operations that would accompany offshore drilling.