Bipartisan group fights sea drilling
Businesses by the thousands also oppose reversing Obama ban
WASHINGTON — State and federal lawmakers from both parties have joined East Coast business interests in trying to persuade the Trump administration to halt its plan for fossil fuel development in the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a surprisingly diverse collection of power players: members of Congress, dozens of lawmakers from both red and blue states, nine attorneys general, six governors and thousands of business owners from Florida through the Carolinas and up to New Jersey.
They hope that mix and their economic, not environmental, argument will sway President Donald Trump’s Interior Department as it nears a decision on testing that could open the door to oil and gas exploration, and eventually drilling, off the coast.
“The wall of opposition that has been built up to Atlantic drilling and seismic testing is amazing,” said Frank Knapp, chief executive of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, an organization supported by more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families on the East Coast.
Environmental groups have worked for years to stop oil and gas development, focusing on the threat it poses to coastal marine life. Lawmakers and business leaders, however, are raising concerns about the economic effect that seismic testing and drilling could have on the multibillion-dollar coastal tourism and fishing industries.
Time is running out for them to make the case. The Interior Department is now reviewing whether to allow the first-ever seismic tests in the Atlantic and whether to allow oil and natural gas leasing there as well. Both activities were barred by the Obama administration.
Offshore drilling supporters say Atlantic exploration and drilling would bring more jobs and economic development to the East Coast. But opponents say restaurants, hotels and other businesses could be jeopardized by the possibility of a large oil spill, like the one that damaged comparable businesses in Gulf Coast states after the Deepwater Horizon spill.