On Sunday, amid performances by the Roots, Passion Pit and John Legend, Oceana spokeswimmer Aaron Peirsol spoke at the Earth Day Climate Rally on the National Mall here in Washington.
“Ocean acidification is a real threat, as is overfishing,” he told the crowd. “New drilling must be forestalled while other invaluable, sustainable alternatives such as wind energy adopted. Today, I'm helping here by speaking and partnering with the ocean conservation group Oceana.
Together, we created Race for the Oceans, an open water swimming event that raises money and awareness toward ocean conservation. We also created Racefortheoceans.org, an online forum for swimmers and conservationists alike.”
The latest accident on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig couldn't have come at a more significant time for the efforts to pass comprehensive climate change and energy legislation. With Senate plans to expand and even incentivize offshore drilling, this accident serves as a reminder of how costly offshore drilling truly is.
Despite advances in drilling technology and all of the precautions made, drilling is a high risk business and even the newest technology cannot prevent all spills. Fires, explosions and accidents are more common than they would like you to believe. New technology advances have pushed the envelope for drilling efforts. Expanding drilling activities into these “frontier” areas only increases the risk.
Take away for the moment the immediate danger to personnel on the rigs and look at the potential environmental and economic costs to coastal towns relying on fishing and tourism. Oceana's federal policy director, Beth Lowell discussed the dangers last night on NBC Nightly News:
Happy Earth Day!
Since there’s so much going on today, here’s a list of things you can do right now to protect the blue marble we call home. Enjoy!
1. Support a ‘safe zone’ for Pacific leatherbacks.
Tell the government to expand critical habitat for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles to more than 70,000 square miles off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Comments are due tomorrow, April 23, so please voice your support today.
2. Take action with Sigourney on ocean acidification.
You can take action too -- tell your representative to support a Congressional resolution that will support policies to study and address the effects of ocean acidification.
3. Stop expanded offshore drilling.
An oil rig about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana exploded Tuesday, in what could be one of the country’s deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past 50 years. Seventeen people were injured in the blast.
Tell your senator today that you won’t stand for expanded offshore drilling.
4. Bid and text for the oceans.
Today is Christie’s Green Auction, which benefits Oceana, Conservation International, NRDC and Central Park Conservancy. Check out the online auction items, or for a cheaper option, you can text “GoGreen” to 20222 to make a $10 donation today.
...And more often than people think. Just days after the President offered up more of our coasts to the oil industry, an oil pipeline operated by Chevron Pipe Line Co leaked at least 18,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
This is another example of how dangerous exposure to an oil spill can potentially be to coastal wildlife and habitat, in a national wildlife refuge no less. Spills happen at every stage of oil production. Whether it is from drilling, pipelines, tankers, or refineries; a spill can occur at every stage of the oil production process. Then when we burn the oil, it contributes to climate change.
Big Oil would have us believe that spills are a thing of the past thanks to modern technology. Unfortunately, the facts play out otherwise. Oil spills are not rare occurrence. Almost one million gallons of oil enter the oceans of North America every year through extraction activities alone.
The tanker, badly damaged and in danger of breaking apart, has already spilled 2 metric tons of heavy oil into the shoals off Queensland's coast in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 2007, the same shipping company, COSCO, was linked to the major spill in the San Francisco Bay.
This is Australia’s third recent major disaster, following the massive oil spill off Queensland and the Timor Sea oil platform blowout. Oil is extremely toxic to marine life and the damage to habitat can persist for years, even decades after a spill.
In the wake of the Obama administration’s recent decision to open up a huge swath of U.S. waters to offshore drilling, this should serve as a warning against adding more oil to our oceans.
Anna Gowan is a policy fellow at Oceana.
Heads up to all you ocean lovers on Twitter: Today at 12:30 pm eastern time, Oceana senior campaign director Jackie Savitz will be on ABC News Nightline debating Obama’s offshore drilling decision with Ben Lieberman from the Heritage Foundation.
Between 12:30 and 1 pm, you can tweet your drilling questions and concerns for Jackie to @nightline. Get your questions ready now, and then tune in here.
See you there!
Happy spring Friday!
Offshore drilling was on everyone's lips this week. And while we were disappointed with Obama’s decision to open new areas to drilling, he also cancelled four lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that had been scheduled by President Bush and committed to conducting significant scientific research and monitoring before any new lease sales are held in those areas -- which is very good news for Arctic people and ecosystems.
In other ocean news,
…U.S. Department of State banned imports of wild-caught Mexican shrimp if they are collected in ways that threaten endangered sea turtles; in other words, turtle excluder devices are now required in Mexico’s shrimp trawl nets.
…NOAA administrator and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco talked to Smithsonian Magazine about our changing view of the oceans, dead zones and a cohesive national ocean policy.
…Anderson Cooper dove unprotected with great white sharks in South Africa with “shark man” Mike Rutzen. The video includes disturbing footage of a shark being finned and thrown back into the sea, still alive.
This week, Oceana's corporate partner Nautica invited us to Key West Race Week to spread the word and gather support for our opposition to Congressional efforts to open up Florida’s coasts to offshore drilling.
In the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, there’s a proposal that would open up currently protected areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.
Why is this proposal such a big deal? I’ll give you a few reasons…
1. Currents: the Florida and Loop currents in the Gulf spread vital nutrients to marine life off Florida’s west coast, so if the currents are exposed to oil, it could expose Florida’s beaches and marine habitats to oil contamination.
2. Habitats: Florida’s mangroves and corals provide habitat for over 40 bird species, over 500 fish species, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, sharks and commercially-important shellfish like spiny lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp. These habitats are particularly vulnerable to oil.
This is the fourth in a series of posts from Copenhagen. Check out the rest here. - Emily
Secretary of Interior Salazar spoke here in Copenhagen about the great work that the Department of the Interior is doing to advance carbon reductions. He also promoted things like carbon sequestration and clean coal technology, which are basically really expensive, long-shot strategies for getting carbon out of coal emissions and getting carbon back underground where it belongs. He also noted that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030, and that the Danes, our hosts, were already doing so!
The Secretary's timing for being here was great -- he had just opened up one of the most productive areas of Alaska to exploratory drilling, a mistake that was not lost on some of the Alaska natives who were there and were very quick to ask him about the Chuckchi decision. (Read more about Oceana's reaction to the decision.)
I was lucky enough to ask the Secretary a question as well, which he deferred to his Deputy, David Hayes. I asked him the following: With all this interest in stopping carbon emissions and sequestering carbon below ground, was he considering as part of the solution just leaving some carbon in the ground by making expanded drilling into previously protected areas, like the west coast of Florida, off limits? I pointed out that doing so would make resources that would otherwise be used for drilling available to help develop the offshore wind he referred to earlier.
I appreciate a well-placed advertisement, and not just because I work on Oceana’s Marketing and Communications team. Many times I have hopped off the DC Metro at the Farragut West station to have one of the art museum displays catch my eye.
Last week I was stopped in my tracks by an advertisement for the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The creative was highlighting two current exhibits at the museum, Sargent and the Sea and Edward Burtynsky: Oil. A large thumbnail of the John Singer Sargent painting, En Route pour la pêche, is what caught my eye. The painting shows a family walking along a beautiful beach. Right next to it was a Burtynsky photograph of an oil refinery.
The Corcoran’s website describes Burtynsky’s exhibition as revealing “the effects of oil on our lives, depicting landscapes altered by its extraction from the earth and by the cities and suburban sprawl generated around its use.” He also set out to comment on the approaching end of the oil supply.
The juxtaposition of the two images could be a coincidence, but I hope it gives others pause -- and makes them consider the impacts of offshore drilling and oil pollution on our oceans. And if they need a clearer picture, all they have to do is glance across to the other platform to see our new ad:
Oceana ran this ad, and several others like it, so that museums don't become the only place to see the beauty the oceans have to offer. The expansion of oil drilling on our coasts, especially in Florida, threatens the oceans and all the life within them.
I like museums, but I prefer the real thing.