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Offshore drilling is susceptible to a litany of environment impacts – spills, chemical pollution, and wetland loss

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Offshore drilling is susceptible to a litany of environment impacts – spills, chemical pollution, and wetland loss

Southern Environmental Law Center, 2014 (“Defending Our Southern Coasts” 5/16/2014

Risks of Oil Drilling In February 2014, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released its final environmental impact statement on the plan to open up the Atlantic coast to seismic surveys for oil and gas. The head of the agency anticipates that applications to conduct seismic testing could be received by the end of the year. Not only are the air gun blasts used in seismic testing harmful to marine life such as the critically endangered North American right whale, allowing seismic testing opens the door to risky oil drilling—under the same lax assessments of risks and precautions that led to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the BP oil spill in the Gulf, the federal regulatory agency and oil companies continue operations based on their same claims that there is no significant risk of, or thus impacts from, such oil spills. SELC challenged the agency's cursory environmental review as illegal and irresponsible in light of the BP blowout and oil spill, and its harmful impacts in the Gulf of Mexico. In December 2011, SELC filed suit challenging the agency’s continued sales of oil and gas leases in the Gulf, which still are conducted without adequate environmental analysis and without regard for lessons learned from the BP disaster. Coastal Riches for Wildlife and People The beautiful and biologically rich coastal areas off Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and our Gulf Coast feature some of the most productive estuaries in the country, including the Chesapeake Bay, the Pamlico Sound, the ACE Basin, and Mobile Bay. Our coasts attract millions of tourists, anglers, and other visitors each year and provide important breeding and feeding habitat for rare migratory birds, turtles, and whales. Tourism and fishing—both commercial and recreational—are the economic backbone of hundreds of communities along our coasts. In 2008 alone, the four Atlantic states yielded $262.8 million in commercial fish landings. Problematic Infrastructure The environmental impacts of offshore drilling and its accompanying infrastructure and refineries onshore were well known even before Gulf disaster. Ocean rigs routinely spill and leak oiland sometimes blow out. Chemicals used to operate oil and gas wells also pollute the marine environment. Moreover, oil spills and other contamination from onshore refineries, pipelines, and associated infrastructure would spoil valuable wetland and marsh ecosystems that provide multiple benefits for Southern communities, including flood control and protection from storms, clean water, and essential habitat for fisheries that sustain our economies and cultures.

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