Bolstered by the presence of high-profile celebrities as well as regional officials from South Carolina, a recent Washington, D.C. summit — followed by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill — spoke loud and clear against offshore drilling by “Big Oil” along the Atlantic coast.
Environmental-minded luminaries Ted Danson, Kate Walsh, and Sam Waterston appealed to President Obama along with spokespersons from global advocacy group Oceana and approximately 100 stakeholders representing East Coast enterprises to ditch plans for industrial offshore drilling.
“It has only been six years since the Gulf oil spill, and it seems as if our government has forgotten that it ever occurred,” Kate Walsh said.
Sponsored by Oceana, the Coastal Voices Summit convened at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium, followed by meetings between the actors and federal lawmakers. Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for the U.S., stressed that Atlantic coastal communities are overwhelmingly opposed to the government’s use of seismic airguns to search for oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor from Delaware to Florida.
"Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous,” said North Carolina State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-57). “The question is not whether there will be another spill, but when.”
South Carolina’s Small Business Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Knapp Jr. disclosed that over 430 small business owners recently signed a letter to Governor Nikki Haley asking her to oppose offshore drilling, noting that South Carolina’s entrepreneurs are fully aware that no one outside the petroleum industry would endorse such activity.
“As a trained petroleum engineer and former ‘roustabout’ on offshore drilling rigs, I can tell you firsthand that working on the rigs is a risky job,” Peg Howell, spokesperson for Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA), based in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, said. “Serious things happened out there, but I really did love my job. I’ve also seen firsthand what offshore drilling does to coastal communities, and I will tell you that it has no place along the Atlantic coast.”
Native American Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, described the area connected from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida as a historically significant “national heritage area” as well as at risk for endangered fishing operations.
The movement to block Atlantic drilling continues to gain momentum as over 100 communities, 100 Congress members, and more than 660 state and local officials, as well as approximately 750 businesses, have publicly opposed drilling, pointing to environmental and commercial disruption.