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Oceana Magazine Spring 2009: Ted Danson Tells Congress: Immediately Reinstate the Offshore Drilling Moratorium

In February, Oceana board member Ted Danson testified before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, urging Congress to protect the oceans and climate from the threats of offshore drilling. He called for the immediate reinstatement of the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling, which lapsed in 2008.

"Oil and water don't mix," Danson said. "Our oceans give essential protein to nearly half the world's population. Ecosystems are disrupted top to bottom by the short and long term effects of oil. More oil spills mean less abundant oceans. More oil spills mean fewer wonderful, pristine beaches. More oil spills mean fewer jobs."

Even at peak production, increased drilling offshore would produce less than one percent of the current energy demand in the U.S., adding up to mere pennies of savings for Americans at the gas pump, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. At the same time, offshore drilling poses severe threats to marine ecosystems.

Danson's testimony garnered close attention from the Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV). The standing-room-only hearing had been scheduled for one hour but stretched to more than three as members of Congress questioned Danson about drilling and ocean conservation.

The testimony seemed prescient as just a week later, Exxon reported a mile-long spill six miles from Santa Barbara, California, near an oil rig incongruously called Platform Harmony.

Every year, approximately 120 million gallons of oil seep into the world's oceans from oil platforms, marine transportation, vessel discharges and accidents. Once leaked, oil poses a deadly threat to fish and wildlife, permanently altering marine ecosystems. In the 20 years since the Exxon Valdez spill, less than ten percent of the 10.8 million gallons of oil released into the ocean has been recovered.

Danson also stressed the importance of planning carefully for the expansion of oil and gas activities into the Arctic. He urged Congress to stop industrialization of the Arctic until a comprehensive, science-based conservation and energy plan could be created. Lastly, he advocated the potential of carbon-free ocean energy sources such as offshore wind, tidal, wave and current power.