An ocean conservation group has released a report they say shows that offshore drilling “remains dirty and dangerous” nine years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“President Trump must drastically reverse course in order to prevent another BP Deepwater Horizon-like disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, an international conservation group.
“We should not be expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to new areas when there’s overwhelming bipartisan opposition. We should be strengthening safety, not further weakening the few safety measures currently in place. Coastal communities and our environment cannot afford another environmental catastrophe, which is where we are headed under President Trump’s proposals. It’s time for President Trump to stand with coastal communities, not the oil and gas industry.”
The report comes about four months after the federal government began issuing permits for seismic testing off the coast of Virginia and other Atlantic states. Virginia and several other states have since sued to stop the testing, which is a precursor to offshore drilling.
Proponents say it could create a new economy and have often cited safeguards put in place by industry and the government in the wake of the disastrous explosion, which killed 11 workers. The subsequent spill went on for months as BP and federal officials were unable to cap the spewing well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Trump administration has moved to roll back some of the safety regulations put in place after the disaster, the worst spill in the history of marine oil drilling operations, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Mike Watson, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia chair of Explore Offshore, a coalition promoting offshore energy development, brushed aside concerns about changing restrictions in a previous interview with a Mercury reporter.
Oceana’s report says the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which monitors offshore drilling projects, relies too heavily on standards written by the industry; grants too many exemptions and is understaffed.
The report also stated there could be unreported or under-reported fatalities, injuries and spills in the offshore industry.
“Less safety and more drilling is a recipe for disaster,” Hoskins said in a statement.
Opponents of offshore drilling, who come from both political parties along Virginia’s coast, have said the practice threatens the tourism and military economy of Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city, brings in about $1.4 billion in tourism revenue every year. Norfolk Naval Station is the largest naval base in the world, and Virginia’s coast is home to thousands of fishermen who supply the state with seafood.