Oceana is extremely disappointed in today's decision by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to open new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling. The Committee accepted a damaging amendment to its energy bill, offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), which will put our oceans and coasts at risk.
"It's a fool's bargain - Americans turn over more of their sensitive coastlines to rich oil companies and get nothing but oiled beaches and worsening climate change in return," said Jackie Savitz of Oceana. "It's a poison pill that will not lower the price at the pump; but it will put important energy legislation at risk. And if it manages to pass, it will complicate our efforts to deal with climate change."
Our nation's coasts and marine ecosystems are more vulnerable now than they have been for decades. The Dorgan amendment, as adopted, calls for reneging on the bipartisan Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) compromise, reached in 2006.
The GOMESA agreement offered the industry drilling rights to 8.2 million acres in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, in return for the protection of the near shore Eastern Gulf of Mexico off of Tampa Bay, out to 234 miles from shore. It also included protection for the remainder of the Gulf Coast and Panhandle out to 125 to 150 miles from shore. This agreement was to remain in effect until 2022. Today's amendment rejects this compromise and would allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters only 45 miles from Florida's shore. Another amendment opened the Destin Dome to gas extraction. The Destin Dome is located less than 25 miles from Pensacola, Florida.
Oceana urges the Senate to remove this damaging provision from the energy bill. A compromise agreement for more drilling in the western Gulf helped protect the Florida coast when enacted just three years ago and it should stand until 2022, as agreed.
By reneging on a negotiated agreement, the U.S. Senate is setting a dangerous precedent for the management and protection of our oceans and coasts. Any comprehensive energy legislation must move our nation away from the outdated energy policies of the past and toward a clean, renewable energy future. Only carbon-free energy will help us maintain the health of our oceans and planet.