March 31, 2010
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Protests Offshore Drilling, Encourages Sustainable Energy
Spill could endanger entire species, industries
Open for offshore exploration
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation strongly opposes oil and gas drilling off the shores of Virginia and Maryland. The coastline of Virginia represents the largest, most intact coastal wilderness on the East Coast and has been designated as a UN International Biosphere Reserve, a U.S. Department of the Interior National Natural Landmark, and a National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research Site.
The offshore proximate waters of the Atlantic Ocean are as much a part of the Chesapeake Bay system as the great rivers such as the Susquehanna, Potomac, and James. Impacts off shore are impacts to the Bay as sea water floods in twice daily with the tides. Furthermore, numerous Bay species use offshore waters during their lives. The Bay's iconic blue crab, for instance, floats off shore within a few centimeters of the surface during its larval stage when it is unable to swim away from any type of surface contamination.
"Offshore drilling creates a new pollution source, one capable of significant, even devastating environmental damage from drilling, transportation, storage, or refinement," said CBF President Will Baker. "Taken together, the totality of the potential harm is too great a risk for the Chesapeake Bay, which EPA already officially lists as impaired."
Last year, President Obama identified the Chesapeake Bay as one of this nation's priority waters that need immediate restoration. His May 2009 Executive Order called for a national strategy to significantly ramp up pollution reductions from all pollution sources.
The ocean's waters off Virginia are critical to the Bay system. Just as fresh waters from rivers and streams feed the Chesapeake, ocean water flushes it with salt water. It is this mixing of fresh and salt water that makes an estuary like the Chesapeake. And because far more salt water enters the Bay than fresh water, potential contamination of ocean waters could cause significant harm.
The Chesapeake is an economic engine to this region. Much of that is through its many living resources like rockfish, crabs, and menhaden. Each of these lives part of their lives in the Bay and another part in the ocean.
"A perfect-storm spill could destroy an entire year class of blue crabs. The economic impact from any spill could be significant, hurting commercial watermen's livelihoods, recreational fishing, and tourism," said Baker.
President Obama has said he wants this nation to be a leader in clean energy. That means a new way of thinking—renewable, sustainable energy sources that are readily available like wind and sun. Offshore wind energy, for example, is a more sustainable and environmentally sensitive practice than oil and gas drilling, and it creates the jobs of the future.
"Drilling off Virginia's shore is business as usual," Baker said. "Big Oil gets the bucks while citizens get the bill. We need leadership today for a new green tomorrow. Our economy needs this leadership and so does the Chesapeake Bay.