Reversing 27 Years of Coastal Protections Would Not Solve Our Energy Woes But Would Threaten Our Coasts
Statement of Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt on H.R. 6899

“Increased offshore oil drilling would threaten our beloved coasts and beaches with chronic pollution and potentially catastrophic spills while doing little to increase our energy supply and nothing to help Americans deal with energy costs. Yet, Congress is poised to roll back 27 years of environmental protection for most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts today while also opening up public lands in the West to environmentally destructive and energy inefficient commercial oil shale leasing.

“America needs real solutions to our energy crisis: investments in renewable and alternative energy, cars that go farther on a gallon of gasoline, and energy efficiency that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. The House energy bill includes many, much needed solutions to change the direction of our nation’s energy policy. Most laudable is the bill’s inclusion of a renewable energy standard, incentives for both clean energy and plug-in hybrids, and efficient building codes. However the bill also contains harmful and wrong-headed drilling proposals. Thus Environment America applauds the leadership’s effort to change our energy course but opposes this specific bill.

“While we are pleased that HR 6899 maintains current protections for Florida’s Eastern Gulf and permanently protects New England’s Georges Bank, the bill would lift 27 years of protection for most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This could expose sensitive coastal environments such as the Long Island beaches, the Jersey shore, the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Hatteras, pristine coast and marine sanctuaries like the Channel Islands of California, and the Oregon and Washington coasts to the impacts of drilling as close as 50 miles offshore.

“More drilling would neither reduce prices nor cut our dependence on dirty oil. President Bush’s own Energy Information Administration has said that drilling in all currently protected offshore areas would not affect domestic oil production until 2030 and even then the impact on prices would be ‘insignificant.’

“The bill’s oil shale provisions are yet another detour off the path to clean renewable, energy while threatening public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Producing a single barrel of oil from shale requires as much as five barrels of water, a severe problem given that oil shale deposits in the United States are concentrated in the arid Mountain West. Transportation fuels produced from oil shale have significantly higher global warming pollution emissions than conventional gasoline or diesel.

“Big Oil and its allies in Washington have been waging a slick and well funded campaign to distort the facts and convince Americans and the Congress to risk our pristine beaches for increased offshore oil drilling. The only true ‘gain’ from more drilling would be to further fatten oil company profits. Environment America urges members of Congress to vote against proposals to open protected areas to drilling. Instead we call on the Congress to put us on a true path to a new energy future by focusing on investments in renewable energy, cars that go farther on a gallon of gasoline, and energy efficiency that would truly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”