The U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has recently released a draft strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing, which has shown that a significant number of officials representing eastern coastal states disapprove the plan, recommending renewable energy, especially wind power, as a better solution that would create more jobs and energy than drilling.
Atlantic region in the spotlight
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 14 potential lease sales in eight planning areas – 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic, which includes areas offshore Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.
“At this early stage in considering a lease sale in the Atlantic, we are looking to build up our understanding of resource potential, as well as risks to the environment and other uses,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
The potential lease sale would require a 50-mile coastal buffer to minimize multiple use conflicts, such as those from Department of Defense and NASA activities, renewable energy activities, commercial and recreational fishing, critical habitat needs for wildlife and other environmental concerns.
BOEM has stated that proposal is in line with comments received from adjacent states and reflects the Administration’s thoughtful approach to potential lease sales in new areas, pending further public review and comment, available for 60 days.
Wind before oil and gas
A recent report titled Offshore Energy by the Numbers, An Economic Analysis of Offshore Drilling and Wind Energy in the Atlantic, has challenged claims by the oil and gas industry that opening the East Coast to offshore drilling will lead the United States to energy independence, generate millions of dollars in revenue for states and create thousands of jobs in the process.
The analysis instead finds that the benefits projected by the industry appear to be exaggerated due to the inclusion of oil and gas resources that are not economically recoverable, thereby inflating the potential benefits.
According to the report, offshore wind would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
A number of officials of Atlantic coast states think the same, pushing for renewables as a more viable option.
Massachusetts Senators Markey and Warren, Menendez and Booker of New Jersey, Mikulski and Cardin of Maryland, Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Reed and Whitehouse of Rhode Island have urged BOEM to continue to protect Federal waters off the Atlantic coast from offshore oil and gas drilling in an effort to protect the fishing, tourism, recreation, and other economies that generate revenue for East coast states.
“As we saw after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when oil starts to leak it knows no boundaries. Drilling off the coast of Virginia and other states along the Eastern Seaboard could pose great risks to the coastal economy of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay,” Capital News Service quotes Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski as saying.
Mikulski was backed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, known as a strong proponent of offshore wind energy, who warned that oil and gas leasing would put sensitive coastal and marine areas at risk, increase conflicts with existing ocean uses, and consequently jeopardize recreational, tourist, fishing, maritime, and renewable energy industries. The Governor suggests that the Mid-Atlantic OCS should focus on the development of safer and cleaner energy sources.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has submitted a comment in which he expresses his opposition to oil and gas exploration and development in the North Atlantic Planning Area because these activities are inconsistent with Massachusetts’ policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address climate change and the risk of oil spills to marine ecosystems and habitat. The Governor supports the development of wind energy, as well as marine ecosystem protection policy. The Governor recommends BOEM to focus on committing national leadership to a sustainable energy future.
New Jersey Senators Menendez and Booker and Congressman Pallone Jr. strongly oppose the inclusion of any Atlantic planning areas in the DPP, adding that energy development off the Atlantic coast should focus on renewable energy production, such as wind energy.