Jun 28, 2022
Twelve years after the disastrous BP explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Gulf communities still face enormous risks because of offshore drilling and the onshore impacts in their backyards--a web of leaking pipelines and flaring chemical facilities choking the air. Yet, our community still found a way to celebrate our land and advocate for its protection during the Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this month.
Our communities shouldn't have to endure these public health impacts, the constant risk of spills, and the disastrous consequences of the climate crisis.
Although we have seen the remarkable recovery of our communities since the spill happened, we still live every day aware that on any day, at any moment, an accident of the same magnitude or worse could uproot our lives and do incalculable damage to our coasts. Moreover, the Gulf coast is threatened by sea level rise more than anywhere in the U.S. A new study from several federal agencies, including the EPA and Department of Defense, estimates anywhere between 14 and 18 inches of sea level rise in the Gulf by 2050--a staggering prediction.
The recent IPCC report shows that we have until 2030 to dramatically reduce our fossil fuel consumption, or else face the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Offshore drilling just keeps the spigot open for more fossil fuel pollution. With the Biden administration's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management set to release its new Five Year Plan this summer, our demand is clear: we need a Five Year Plan that contains no new offshore drilling leases.
Those of us who live in the Gulf are all too familiar with the daily harms of the offshore drilling industry. From off the coast and onto our shores, offshore drilling is an ugly business for the public health and safety of our communities. The refineries that process the oil and gas coming in from offshore release toxic chemicals into our air day and night, increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses for children and adults. When refineries malfunction, they create acute air pollution episodes that jeopardize our ability to breathe. Industry has built these refineries disproportionately in low-income neighborhoods amid communities of color, and Cancer Alley, a stretch in Louisiana where many of these refineries operate, is even the subject of a current EPA civil rights investigation which emphasizes what an environmental justice disaster these refineries pose.
Fossil fuel industry CEOs often try to pitch offshore drilling as "good for business," but the truth is that our local economies suffer because of it. Offshore drilling destroys the beautiful coasts we rely on for our thriving tourism industry and harms yields for our fishing industry, destroying jobs and livelihoods altogether when spills occur. The Gulf can be a stronger, more prosperous, more regenerative place without the constant threat of an oil spill. And when oil companies go bankrupt, it's taxpayers like us who are expected to foot the bill to clean up their messes, worsening the economic toll of offshore drilling.
We are already facing the realities of climate change--and superstorms, extreme heat, and flooding due to sea level rise are all expected to get more frequent and severe. These extreme weather events destroy houses and neighborhoods, force relocation, and put members of our communities out of school and work. Scientists link these worsening events directly to fossil fuel pollution. Offshore drilling is responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gases the United States pushes into the atmosphere. It's time to cut this pollution off at the source by guaranteeing no new leasing in the Gulf.
Our communities shouldn't have to endure these public health impacts, the constant risk of spills, and the disastrous consequences of the climate crisis. President Biden can fulfill the promise he made on the campaign trail to end drilling in our country's public lands and waters by guaranteeing the upcoming Five Year Plan has no new leases. It's time to put people first and issue a Five Year Plan that serves all of us, not just corporate polluters. We don't have any time to waste.
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