Bi­par­ti­san group fights sea drilling

Busi­nesses by the thou­sands also op­pose re­vers­ing Obama ban

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation - Tony Pugh, Mc­Clatchy

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.

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