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Oceana: Offshore drilling puts 25,000 Delaware jobs at risk

Courtesy of NRDC
A ship towing an airgun array.

A new economic analysis from ocean conservation group Oceana analyzes what’s at stake for Delaware and other coastal states if a federal five-year federal offshore drilling plan is approved.

Oceana’s report found offshore drilling could threaten 25,000 tourism and fishing jobs and $1.2 billion in gross domestic product every year on Delaware’s coast.

The proposed federal leasing plan would yield about eight days’ worth of oil and seven days’ worth of gas for the First State, the report says. Oceana looked through data at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Coastal Management to create their analysis.

Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins says those amounts are too small and finite for the coastal economy and number of jobs offshore drilling puts at risk. She points out the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill that killed 11 and put marine life in peril.

“The cost, the tolls - both environmental and economic - continues to grow, and this is simply not a risk or threat we should be bringing to any new areas, especially off the Atlantic Coast,” Hoskins said.

She continued, “Oil doesn’t respect state boundaries so it’s not just about drilling right off of Delaware’s coast but really anywhere in the Atlantic.”

According to Oceana’s analysis, across the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, offshore drilling would threaten more than 2.6 million jobs and nearly $180 billion in gross domestic product for about two years of oil and one years’ worth of gas.

Local environmental groups, state officials and Delaware’s congressional delegation have opposed offshore drilling off the First State coast — citing the environmental risk and the risk to the state’s beach tourism economy. Kevin Chandler, the chair of the Delaware chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said Oceana's assessment shows the threat of offshore drilling compared to the amount of oil and gas it could yield is a risk.

“The amount of resources we have naturally does not justify the risk of oil drilling or seismic testing to find out where oil and gas exist," Chandler said.

After the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management visited Dover in January for public comments, a few First State environmental groups felt the session flew under the radar to many coastal residents. They held a public forum at University of Delaware’s Lewes campus on Saturday, March 3.

Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute Executive Director Suzanne Thurman said 120 people attended – a testimony to how critical the issue is to the First State.

Thurman said environmentalists stressed the importance of Delaware residents submitting comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“Whatever their affiliation with the ocean might be - whether it’s for work and where they live... for people who care about the ocean and care about everything a healthy ocean pertains to, that experience is what they need to write,” Thurman said.

“They don’t have to be a scientist; they don’t have to cite scientific information. They need to say how they use the ocean, why they use it and how an oil spill will impact their quality of life.”

Chandler said the point environmentalists were trying to drive home was everyone has a voice and residents should make sure their voices are heard.

The 60-day comment period for the five-year offshore drilling plan ends Friday.

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