Offshore oil and gas development is incompatible with outdoor recreation and tourism values, puts two million U.S. jobs at risk, and should not proceed, according to businesses and elected officials on both U.S. coasts.
Their immediate concern is a draft proposal issued by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) in January that could expand drilling leases to 90% of U.S. waters. The 47 potential leases cover Alaska, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. Coastal tourism, recreation, and fisheries stakeholders are galvanizing in response.
Already, EcoWatch reports, ocean protection advocates at the Surfrider Foundation have presented DOI with signatures from more than 1,000 coastal businesses—many of them mounted on a surf board—petitioning to protect the coast from offshore oil and gas development.
“Our nation’s coastal tourism, recreation, and fishing industries, which are built around clean water and healthy beaches, provide 12 times as many jobs as those created by offshore drilling,” said Environmental Director Pete Stauffer. “We will continue to work together with the many businesses, communities, and elected officials that have already demonstrated opposition against the expansion of destructive new oil drilling to fight for the protection of our ocean, coasts, and communities for the future.”
Tourism and recreation industry requests to stop the expansion align with the positions of 15 state governors and 37 U.S. senators, all of them expressing strong opposition to the proposal.
Resistance also coincides with new data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), detailing the economic value of outdoor recreation in the United States. Commissioned under President Barack Obama’s Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, the study shows outdoor activity accounted for 2% of the country’s 2016 Gross Domestic Product, or US$373.7 billion. The same study pegs mining, oil, and gas extraction at 1.4% of GDP.
Surfrider Foundation stresses that clean coastal ecosystems support $114 billion in U.S. spending annually.
Sites at risk in the debate include many of the most treasured coastal tourism and outdoor recreation resources in the U.S., from the Arctic and sub-Arctic wildlife of Alaska, rugged coast of Oregon, and surf beaches of California, to the coastal fisheries of Louisiana through Maine, and the busy beaches of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and the Carolinas.