Virginia Offshore Drilling Yields Net Job Loss, Risk to Coastal Economy
NEWS RELEASE: [Virginia Beach, VA] – March 31, 2010
In anticipation of today’s announcement by President Obama regarding expansion of offshore drilling into areas that were previously protected, including drilling off Virginia’s coast, the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter offered the following statements:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has chosen to open up new areas that have long stood protected from the dirty, risky business of offshore drilling”, said Glen Besa, Virginia Chapter Director with the Sierra Club. “Our beloved clean Virginia beaches are the backbone of our coastal economy, generating billions of dollars in revenues from tourism, recreation and commercial fishing.”
“Offering Virginia’s Lease Sale 220 as soon as 2011 represents a horrible rush to judgment that trumps thorough environmental study with politics as usual”, said Eileen Levandoski, Hampton Roads Coordinator with the Sierra Club. “Despite the fact that information on the possible effects of Atlantic drilling is ‘30 years out of date’ as Interior Secretary Salazar points out, Virginia’s offshore areas will be leased to Big Oil in little over one year and the bull allowed into the China shop.”
As revealed at a Mineral Management Services workshop in Williamsburg in late 2008, large data gaps exist when it comes to the endangered and protected species and the diverse ecosystems found in Virginia’s offshore ocean canyons and coral reefs. Especially for oil spill risk analysis, current and wind information has been deemed a high priority data gap.
“Not only are there huge gaps in the scientific information needed to evaluate the impact of drilling off Virginia’s coast, but its offshore zone is a vital piece of a much larger and interconnected coastal and oceanic ecosystem”, added Levandoski. “Rather than singling out a small area off a single state for environmental study – as Virginia is right now – the Atlantic coast as a whole needs to be thoroughly studied. That study is painfully absent from the drilling plan currently being proposed.”
“Numerous questions also arise as a result of a District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ opinion tossing out the 2007-2012 drilling program for its deficiencies in the scientific and environmental analysis”, said Besa. “The legal ramifications of proceeding with drilling Virginia’s offshore zone, which was proposed in this flawed program, should instead be giving our policymakers great pause.”
“Also, mixing rockets, missiles and live munitions with offshore drilling rigs and pipelines is an environmental nightmare waiting to happen”, said Levandoski. “Thus the Navy and NASA have maintained their constant opposition to Virginia offshore drilling.”
“Encroachment in the Virginia CAPES operating area, where the Navy has maintained its opposition to Virginia drilling, would provide compelling reason for Navy to move its forces to states like Florida that protect offshore training ranges from drilling”, said Levandoski. “The loss of Oceana jets means a net loss of 11,000 jobs, $773 million in annual payroll, and $452 million in annual local contracting. This loss of jobs dwarfs even the most speculative of job creation estimates from Virginia drilling.”
“There are not only the risks of spills both chronic and catastrophic but also the industrialization of our coastal communities that would either debilitate or destroy Virginia’s coastal economy,” said Besa. “For just the Mid-Atlantic area alone, the annual value of these sustainable activities is almost 4 times that of oil and gas extraction. That’s $13.55 billion from industries completely dependent on clean beaches and healthy ocean waters compared to $3.7 billion from dwindling nonrenewable risky source that in Virginia’s case represents a mere 6.5 days of supply before it’s exhausted.”
For more information, contact Glen Besa, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Director 804-387-6001 or Eileen Levandoski, Hampton Roads Coordinator, Sierra Club 757-277-8537.