Anastasia Swearingen is a senior research analyst at the Environmental Policy Alliance, a project of the nonprofit Center for Organizational Research and Education.
Focus on clean power is better strategy
By Karen Grainey
The envy of the nation, Georgia’s vast and beautiful coastal marshlands are almost a third of what remain on the East Coast.
They provide intangible quality-of-life benefits that are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify in monetary terms. The Center for a Sustainable Coast estimates that $2 billion a year and 40,000 jobs are generated by tourism and nature-based businesses dependent on coastal Georgia’s vital natural resources.
The most biologically productive ecosystems on earth, salt marshes provide nursery habitat for important commercial and recreational fisheries which generate $600 million a year in Georgia.
This bounty is being put at risk by the Obama administration’s recent decision to open our coastal waters to seismic testing and sonic cannons — the first step toward offshore dirty fuel development.
Seismic cannon blasting, by the federal government’s own estimates, will injure and kill more than 138,000 marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins and the endangered North Atlantic right whale. And the biological toll will only grow if drilling moves forward.
Oil and gas drilling is a dirty and risky business. A major oil spill could irreparably damage our treasured salt marshes.
Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, oil can still be found on Alaskan beaches, and the herring fishery in Prince William Sound never recovered. In the Gulf of Mexico, where communities are struggling in the toxic wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, scientists expect ecosystem recovery to take decades.
There are also the everyday spills that are a routine cost of business for Big Oil. The National Academy of Sciences reports that during its lifecycle a single well routinely releases up to 2,000 tons of pollution.
The carbon released in finding, extracting, processing, distributing and burning offshore fossil fuels will compound climate impacts — increasing the risk of severe storms, rising seas and other burdens of climate disruption, many of which are already being felt.
The Obama administration has taken steps to tackle the climate crisis, initiating regulations on carbon pollution from power plants, bolstering clean energy, and announcing new efforts to increase climate preparedness and resiliency. However, to preserve and continue that progress, those measures must be accompanied by steps to keep dirty fuel reserves in place.
As the administration develops a plan for offshore development, it should refrain from including new leasing for oil and gas extraction. The environmental and economic concerns that, up until now, have prevented leasing off the Atlantic coast remain valid. Given the state of the climate, they are more justified today.
New energy-development projects should be focused on clean power, such as tapping the region’s large offshore wind potential. Choosing clean energy will benefit coastal communities, tourism economies along the Atlantic coast, and the world’s environment.
The Obama administration needs to get back on track and protect our coasts from drilling or risk opening the door to disaster.
Karen Grainey chairs the Coastal Group of the Georgia Chapter Sierra Club.
By Ann Ravel
In Georgia’s U.S. Senate race this year, about $34 million has already been spent on ads to sway voters. More than $11 million of that comes from outside groups, many of which do not disclose donors. And that’s just one race. Nationally, estimates are that anonymous outside spending could reach $700 million or more this year.
Ann Ravel is vice chair of the Federal Election Commission.