New Orleans, LA — Today, nearly 70 groups sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to build on his climate legacy and remove the Gulf of Mexico from the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program and immediately initiate a plan to transition the region away from a fossil fuel economy and towards one powered by clean energy.In the latest draft of the five year offshore drilling plan released in March, the Obama administration removed leases in the Atlantic Ocean, but kept in leasing for the the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
As of 2016, more than 20 million acres of the Gulf have been leased to the oil and gas industry, and the 2017-2022 leasing plan, in its current state, will open it up further. Currently, approximately 80 percent of the previously leased acreage has yet to be developed.
Groups point to significant environmental impacts felt throughout the Gulf as a result of offshore drilling, noting numerous pipeline bursts, spills, and rig failures that have inundated the waters with oil and toxins, as well as onshore effects leveled by the petrochemical industry against communities of color across the region.
The letter calls for fossil fuel operations to be replaced with a clean energy alternative: wind. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to generate 5,000 MW of wind power by 2030, supporting more than 20,000 full-time jobs.
“We cannot continue to treat the Gulf as a sacrifice zone,” said Lena Moffitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “For far too long, we have permitted the oil and gas industry to pollute the Gulf’s air and water, even as land loss continues at a rate of nearly a football field-size per hour as a result of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. The Gulf deserves a safe and liveable future, and that begins by ending offshore drilling and transitioning the region to a clean energy economy.”
“The science has spoken.” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director at 350.org. “New offshore drilling of any kind is incompatible with the Paris climate deal. If we’re serious about stopping climate change we can’t build any more fossil fuel infrastructure, anywhere — not in the Atlantic, not in the Arctic, and not in the Gulf.”
“The time of pitting one development project against another must come to an end, as must oil and gas development sacrifice zones. As a nation we must fairly and equitably transition off fossil fuel extraction, in the Gulf, in the Arctic, and throughout our nation in order to meet our climate goals. Climate is the great equalizer and if we do not transition it will not only be our communities that suffer, but all communities. Alaska stands with the Gulf asking the President to stop offshore leases once and for all,”said Jessica Girard, program director, Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
“President Obama has a climate legacy we are proud of from stopping Keystone XL and protecting public lands. Families who rely on the water for their very livelihoods need him to stand with us to protect the Gulf from the risky and excessive drilling. Our public waters should not be for sale,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Alliance President.
“The people of the Gulf South, who live, work, and play along the Gulf of Mexico, are ready to transition into clean energy sources that lessen impacts to the environment, creates a sustainable job market, and protects human and nonhuman health,” said Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director, Earth Action, Inc. “We will no longer allow big industry or the government to dictate the type of energy source we want for our communities, We want our voices heard. We have a responsibility to advocate for and implement changes, we are ready to accept those responsibilities. We are ready for action.”
“There are some places that are simply too special to drill. The Gulf of Mexico is one such place. It is home to the world’s most endangered sea turtle, the kemp’s ridely, and a stunning array of marine wildlife that deserve protection from further oil and gas development,” said Joanna McWilliams of Turtle Island Restoration Network (seaturtles.org). “We urge President Obama to take action to protect marine wildlife.”
“We’re alarmed that the government allows the oil industry to pollute the Gulf of Mexico with oil spills and fracking waste. It’s bad for public health, wildlife and the climate,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time for a change that’ll usher out dirty fossil fuels and transition to a cleaner future.”
“The Gulf Mexico continues to be battered by the devastating effects of fossil fuel extraction, including alarmingly frequent oil spills and the decades-long Taylor Energy oil leak that, rather than showing signs of slowing, appears to be worsening,” said Larissa Liebmann, Staff Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “It is irresponsible and senseless to allow these oil companies, which have demonstrated time and time again that they are either unwilling or unable to prevent these disasters, to build more destructive fossil fuel infrastructure that takes us further from our clean energy goals. It is well past time that the federal government recognize that for the health of the Gulf and for the global climate, there must be no further offshore oil leasing.”
“While many people think that living on the coast is a criteria for caring for the ocean, the Colorado Ocean Coalition is an example that this is clearly not the case,” said Vicki Nichols Goldstein, Founder and Director of the Colorado Ocean Coalition. “Our rivers flow from the interior of the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico and we consider this region part of our own. The Gulf of Mexico has some of the most amazing and unique ecosystems in the U.S. including salt domes, deepwater corals, and teems with sea life. We urge President Obama to continue with his strong ocean protection legacy and begin to replace fossil fuel operations with clean energy alternatives.
“Indigenous communities in Alaska and the Gulf share parallel realities,” said Faith Gemmill, Executive Director Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL). “We have subsistence based communities that rely on the Ocean ecosystem to provide for their essential food security; we have seen coastal erosion that is forcing communities to be relocated due to climate change and fossil fuel development; the fossil fuel Industry is the primary economic engine within both regions; and we have both been impacted by the largest offshore oil spills in the history of the United States which have severely harmed our Ocean ecosystems and our ways of life. As such, it is imminent that we combine our struggles and our efforts to transition away from dirty fossil fuels that only serve to undermine our rights and our homelands, and seek a new paradigm in the United States of a Just Transition to clean, sustainable energy that would uphold and promote our ways of life instead. This can only become our new reality if the Administration hears our call for no new leases offshore Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.“