Offshore drilling plan threatens coastal communities, ocean wildlife

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Expansion of drilling could permanently alter much of America’s coastline and threaten economy of coastal communities

(03/31/2010) -

• The Obama Administration’s broad offshore drilling plan, released today, threatens coastal waters along the mid- and south-Atlantic coastline from Delaware to Florida
• The Obama plan sets aside – apparently permanently – the world-class sockeye salmon fishery of Alaska’s lush Bristol Bay, and protects the California coast until 2017
• The plan reverses a 2006 bipartisan compromise agreement that promised to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast and Panhandle until 2022
• Drilling in the Arctic Ocean will continue in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, fragile areas where no oil spill cleanup technology has yet been invented

WASHINGTON – The following is a statement by Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Rodger Schlickeisen:

“While we are pleased that the Obama administration has decided to permanently protect Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay and continue protection of the California coast until 2017, we’re extremely concerned about the administration’s planned expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, south Atlantic, and mid-Atlantic coasts.  The administration’s planned expansion of oil drilling risks the health of marine wildlife, fisheries, and coastal economies.  It continues and expands our dependence on fossil fuels at a time when we need to reduce our dependence in order to address the harmful impacts of global warming.  

“If this drilling plan is fully implemented as President Obama outlined it today, it could spell disaster for much of America’s coastline, and the tourism on which many coastal communities depend economically. If oil drilling is allowed to proceed off our mid-Atlantic coast, for example, major fisheries and wildlife areas including the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina’s Outer Banks will be subject to disruptive seismic testing and potentially catastrophic oil spills. Oil exploration and drilling will pose a particular risk to the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale, which migrates along our entire Atlantic coast. Defenders of Wildlife and other organizations have recently petitioned to expand critical habitat protection for the North Atlantic right whale to include areas being considered for drilling off the south and mid-Atlantic coast. Any drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas could prove disastrous for those fragile Arctic ecosystems and imperiled species such as polar bears.

“We’re particularly disappointed that President Obama’s plan reverses the bipartisan compromise reached by Congress in 2006 to safeguard Florida’s Gulf Coast and Panhandle through 2022. As Senators, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar all voted in support of that compromise, which now stands to be reversed. What kind of message does that send to citizens of California, for example, who today were promised a reprieve from drilling until at least 2017?

“Increasing fossil fuel drilling will also increase the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global climate change. Today’s announcement threatens the health of our near-shore waters, an environment at particular risk from global warming. Now, more than ever, it is urgent that Congress pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation that tackles carbon emissions and addresses the climate impacts already being seen today.”

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Learn more about the environmental impacts of offshore oil drilling on marine wildlife and habitat

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, 202-772-3270

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