Offshore Drilling

Advocacy matters: Offshore drilling in Atlantic OCS off the table

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The people have spoken, and the President has heard:

The Obama administration is expected to withdraw its plan to permit oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast, yielding to an outpouring of opposition from coastal communities from Virginia to Georgia but dashing the hopes and expectations of many of those states’ top leaders.

I have no doubt that if it hadn't been for the tireless work of many unpaid volunteers working with NC's environmental organizations, this victory (when it's formally announced) would not have happened. These folks made countless trips from the Triangle, the Triad, and even the mountain areas, to various coastal communities to lend their support and organizing skills, the entire time faced with the knowledge they were fighting a billion-dollar industry. And the sheer number of brave municipal governments all along the coast who took a stand against offshore drilling is amazing. Movements like this are rare, and the thousands of hours devoted to making them happen deserves recognition. We should also never forget what's at stake:

Op-ed on offshore drilling by Duke University professor

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The dangers far outweigh the benefits:

The existence or importance of climate change is questioned by many, especially those who like to drive big SUVs to the beach on weekends. About the only argument I can see holding any water will come from those well-heeled individuals who own coastal real estate or who wish to develop coastal areas for others to enjoy.

Lessons from the Deep-Water Horizon or Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are instructive. Phytoplankton biomass in Gulf waters was 85 percent lower after the oil spill. Some of the reduction might have been caused by the massive use of oil dispersants on the 5 million barrels of oil that flowed from the seabed. Lower phytoplankton biomass translates directly into lower fish and shellfish populations, which feed on phytoplankton.

Just want to add something often overlooked: Most people work from the assumption that land-based flora (trees, plants, etc.) provide most of our planet's new oxygen creation and carbon uptake. But in reality, about 60% of that function is performed by ocean microorganisms, plankton (both types) in particular. We screw them up, and there's no coming back. Here's something else the esteemed author left out of the conversation:

Propaganda over science: Van der Vaart a reliable industry puppet

Seismic testing for offshore drilling is far from harmless:

The National Science Foundation safely conducted a 2D seismic survey off the coast of North Carolina last fall. Interestingly, this study did not receive the attention that the proposed studies have generated, despite the fact that they used the same technology that is proposed for oil and gas seismic data collection. The N.C. Divisions of Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries did not receive any reports of disturbances or injury to marine wildlife and are unaware of any adverse impacts resulting from those surveying activities.

That is consistent with observations made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May 2015, which found no evidence that serious injury, death or stranding by marine mammals can occur from exposure to air gun pulses, even in the case of large air gun arrays. Sadly, some political groups masquerading as environmental organizations have chosen to ignore these realities.

Bolding mine. Not only is that an asinine statement, it's ironic as hell coming from a political appointee who has attacked Roy Cooper for not opposing the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Van der Vaart is proving to be even more of a demagogue than his predecessor, and that's saying a helluva lot. I don't need to tell you that, but I do need to throw some actual science into the discussion. Due to their environment, ocean fauna rely on sound more than any other sense to survive and procreate:

Growing list of coastal municipalities oppose offshore drilling

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Swansboro joins in the dissenting opinion:

Commissioners voted 3-1 at the board’s Tuesday night meeting to adopt a resolution opposing offshore oil and gas development and drilling and related seismic blasting activities off the North Carolina coast.

Commissioner Jim Allen said he wasn’t comfortable taking a stand against an issue that state leaders are working on with the federal government. Gov. Pat McCrory serves as chairman of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. “I don’t think we need to be putting up roadblocks in their way,” Allen said.

If that pro-drilling group were composed entirely of government officials, there *might* be a sliver of credibility in Jim Allen's concern. But those Governors have allowed themselves to become nothing more than oil & gas industry mouthpieces:

Endangered species watch: BOEM's reckless disregard for migratory mammals

Creative mapmaking of a different kind:

Jasny said new information shows that marine mammals would be affected by seismic blasting as much as three times more frequently than BOEM had anticipated. BOEM’s final environmental impact statement released in 2014 estimates that the planned seismic surveying activities in the Atlantic will result in as many as 138,000 injuries to marine mammals and in 13.5 million disturbances of marine mammals, including disruptions in vital behaviors such as feeding, mating and communicating.

The main flaw is that the bureau had relied on studies done in the 1980s that became the standard for determining impacts through the late 1990s. Jasny said that’s “practically the stone age” as far as ocean research is concerned. “There has been a flood of important science that extends far beyond the limited perspective of what was available in the early 1980s when those studies were done,” Jasny said. “As the authors of one study put it, the study that BOEM relies upon is outdated and inaccurate.”

Read the whole article, and when you've finished that, compare the information compiled by numerous scientists with what BOEM reported to Congress just a few months ago:

McCrory's dodging makes him a "back-door" Governor

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Avoiding all those pesky questions about the risks of offshore drilling:

Approximately 70 opponents of offshore drilling gathered in Manteo on Aug. 28 for what was billed as a “peaceful demonstration” aimed at Governor Pat McCrory, a strong supporter of offshore energy exploration who was holding a fundraiser in the Dare Arts Council building.

McCrory entered and exited the Arts Council headquarters through a rear entrance, without acknowledging the presence of the protestors. Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila Davies, who attended the fundraiser and later joined the anti-drilling protest, said she thought the governor was aware of the demonstration.

He was definitely aware. Hopefully the protesters stuck around long enough to get a look at the donors who attended. They're just as responsible (if not more) than McCrory is, by writing checks to keep him in office.

Coastal residents up in arms about offshore drilling

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And the un-democratic approach of local lawmakers:

Some 300 people showed up at the town hall that Monday evening, filling the meeting room and spilling into the parking lot. Angry locals waited as long as two hours to confront Mayor Dean Lambeth, who recently had signed a letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, endorsing a move to begin seismic testing for oil and gas deposits off the North Carolina coast. The letter had been written by America's Energy Forum, an arm of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry lobby group. Lambeth had signed it, lending his endorsement as the mayor of Kure Beach, without any public debate.

It's a good bet a lot of those angry locals rely on tourism for their livelihoods, even if they're not environmentalists in the classic sense. And the last thing you want to do as a small-town Mayor is piss off small business owners. They can flip a local election in the amount of time it takes to say, "Start packing your stuff, we may have to leave town." And it doesn't take much to spread that outrage statewide:

The economic realities of offshore drilling the Atlantic OCS

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Applying reason to a rhetoric-filled debate:

Taylor, in her presentation, explored the economic and other benefits that have been touted as reasons to pursue offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast. Enhancing the nation’s energy independence, lowering energy prices and creating jobs are the big three reasons often cited, but what’s the reality?

“We cannot be independent of a globally traded commodity,” Taylor said, referring specifically to petroleum products, for which prices are set on international markets.

An indisputable reality we've been trying to convey to the "drill, baby, drill" crowd until we're blue in the face. But they're either dishonest or don't have the capacity to understand, which is why we have to keep saying it:

Offshore drilling: Industry propaganda vs reality

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The myth of oil exploration coming to the rescue of a failing economy:

For years, Newfoundland and Labrador were known for being net recipients of financial aid from other Canadian provinces. As the fishing industry struggled, they steadily lost population.

That all changed in the early 2000s when companies began drilling in earnest along their coasts. Between 1988-2002, offshore bids brought in $900 million; from 2003-2014, bids yielded $2.4 billion.

That's $2.4 billion accumulated over 12 years. That distinction is important, especially in light of Newfoundland and Labrador's projected $1.1 billion deficit for this fiscal year:

NC's offshore drilling jobs: Propaganda or real projections?

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I wouldn't put a down-payment on a new boat just yet:

The creation of new jobs – tens of thousands of them – would be one of the greatest economic gains to North Carolina from offshore drilling, proponents say. Critics of drilling charge that the rosy job numbers are based on a flawed economic study commissioned by the oil industry. Reaching even those lofty numbers, they note, will requires hundreds of drilling rigs and a significant buildup of infrastructure that now doesn’t exist.

Just a personal anecdote: The guy who lived across the street from me (here in NC) for about ten years was a roughneck who worked on offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. I think he was out there for three weeks straight and then a week off, and he came home every couple of months or so. He told me that was not uncommon; several of his coworkers lived in states not fronting the Gulf. Why is that important? Because many work from the assumption that out-of-state oil workers would be temporary, that once our own people got the proper training those jobs would be ours. It really doesn't work like that. And we also won't be paying less at the pump, as many groups like AFP try to imply:

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