Costal Drilling

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					          Offshore Drilling: Risks and Impacts on Georgia
                                        July 2008

Offshore drilling involves far more than just drilling a well: day-to-day coastal drilling
disrupts adjacent ecosystems and communities, and likely spills associated with such
drilling causes irreversible impacts on marine and terrestrial life. In 1981, congress
realized these risks and decided to adopt the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) moratorium
in order to ensure our coastal future’s protection. Recently, however, political actors have
called for a lift of the nearly three decade year-old moratorium, but a review of the far-
reaching impacts drilling would have on Georgia’s costal communities economically and
environmentally when alternatives for oil exist seem shortsighted.

Economic Damage: Recreational and                 begin no sooner than 2012, and
commercial fishing on Georgia's coast             production would not be expected to
bring in an estimated $600 million                start before 2017." It added, "Because oil
annually; Georgia's coast supports a              prices are determined on the
nature-based tourism industry that                international market, however, any
generates $1 billion a year.1 The areas           impact on average wellhead prices is
that support recreation and tourism are           expected to be insignificant."2
especially vulnerable to the visual and
noise intrusion of oil and gas                    Onshore Damage: Offshore wells
developments. Further, popular Islands,           require onshore infrastructure, including
such as Jekyll, St. Simons, Tybee,                miles of pipeline and roads and other
Cumberland and Sea, are especially at             industrial apparatus like ports, helipads,
risk to offshore drilling’s environmental         and dorms. Further, Georgia’s costal
hazards and risks because of their                salt marshes, which act as buffers
sensitive ecosystems and their reliance           against offshore storms, are
on tourism.                                       particularly at risk—pipelines crossing
                                                  coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico
Latent Price Impact: A commonly                   are estimated to have destroyed more
cited misconception by drilling                   coastal salt marsh than can be found in
supporters is that it will reduce our             the stretch of coastal land running from
dependence on foreign oil and thereby             New Jersey through Maine.3
lower fuel prices. A report last year,
however, by the Energy Department's               Spills: Offshore spills are difficult to
Energy Information Administration said            contain and can affect a broad area.
that "access to the Pacific, Atlantic,            Accidents or equipment malfunctions
and eastern Gulf regions would not                leading to offshore oil spills can kill fish,
have a significant impact on domestic             marine mammals, sea birds, sea turtles
crude oil and natural gas production              and other wildlife (some endangered),
or prices before 2030. Leasing would              and make affected beaches and other
natural habitat – including sensitive tidal   5 tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons,
marshes – severely polluted and               contributing to smog, acid rain, and
unusable for extended periods. For any        particulate pollution.8
spill, only 5-15% can be cleaned up.4
From 1990 to 1999, offshore drilling                   History of Drilling
platforms and pipelines spilled 1.8
million gallons of oil in U.S. waters.5       1947: Kerr-McGee completes the
                                              world's first commercial oil well 11
Hurricane Risk: Georgia is vulnerable         miles off Louisiana's shore, marking the
to hurricanes that could destroy drilling     beginning of our nation's offshore
infrastructure and induce toxic spills.       drilling industry.
The 2005 hurricane season highlights the
danger of depending on susceptible            1969: An offshore Union Oil Co.
offshore oil infrastructure, with             platform suffers a devastating blowout,
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroying        leaking 200,000 gallons of oil into the
113 petroleum production platforms in         clean waters of the Pacific Ocean.
the Gulf of Mexico and damaging 457
pipelines connecting production
facilities.6 Hurricanes Rita and Katrina
also illustrate the risk of oil spills,
spilling an estimated 508,000 gallons of
oil in the Gulf of Mexico.7

Offshore Damage: During exploration
and the construction of the well site and
its associated infrastructure, there is
potential for disturbance of ecological
resources. Even when there are no
large spills, the drilling and
production process routinely releases
hundreds of thousands of gallons of
water and mud tainted with mercury,
carcinogens and poisons into fragile

Air Pollution: Offshore natural gas
drilling contributes to air pollution.
According to the National
Oceanographic & Atmospheric
Administration, each offshore oil             1981: Congress adopts the Outer
platform generates approximately              Continental Shelf (OCS) moratorium,
214,000 pounds of air pollutants each         which protects America’s coasts,
year. An average exploration well for oil     beaches and marine ecosystems from the
or natural gas generates 50 tons of           threats of oil and gas development.
nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon            Congress has since annually renewed the
monoxide, 6 tons of sulfur dioxide, and       moratorium on new oil and gas
development off the Atlantic and Pacific    2012: The presidential deferrals are set
coasts as well as Bristol Bay Alaska.       to expire.

1990: President George H.W. Bush
authors an additional level of protection     Other Options for our Coast
which defers new leasing until 2002.
                                            Of renewable options, wind is off
1998: Bill Clinton extends H.W. Bush’s      particular interest for costal Georgia.
additional level of protection.             Wind power recently became a viable
                                            option for Georgia's coast, when
2006: Oil and gas lobbyists try to pass a   researchers discovered a flaw in
resolution urging for oil and gas           previous thinking regarding the winds
exploration off the coast of Georgia.       off Tybee. Georgia's offshore wind
                                            capability was dismissed as inadequate
2008: The Vitter amendment (#4207 to        when the federal Department of Energy
Senate Concurrent Resolution 70),           scored it as a 2 on its seven-point wind
which aims to end the OCS moratorium,       scale in the 1980s; this rating, however,
is defeated. Two months later, the          was mistakenly based on land values
McConnell energy amendment of “drill        rather than correct offshore values.
anywhere and everywhere” is also            Today, winds are rated 4 and 5 on the
defeated.                                   same seven-point scale within 30 miles
                                            of the shoreline, and especially near
The McConnell energy amendment’s            Tybee, making wind a promising, clean
proponents are 17 Republican senators,      energy for Georgia.10
who have received $3 million total in
campaign contributions from oil and gas
industry affiliates, according to data
compiled from the nonpartisan Center for
Responsive Politics.
In addition to the drilling provision
proposal would open 2,000 acres of the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in
Alaska to oil and gas leasing and allow
oil shale drilling in the West. Georgia’s
Saxby Chambliss is a co-sponsor of this
energy proposal. 9

2008: John McCain abandons his long-
time support for a federal moratorium on
drilling along the nation's coastlines in
favor of allowing states to decide for

2008: President George W. Bush lifts a
White House ban on offshore oil drilling
and urges lawmakers to follow suit.
  Kyler, David, director of the Center for a
Sustainable Coast on St. Simons Island “Don't
risk GA coast in quest for energy,” Atlanta
Journal Constitution Online Forum, July 5, 2005
  Energy Information Administration, “Impacts
of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas
Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer
Continental Shelf,” Internet accessed; available
3 Boesch and Rabalais, eds., “The Long-term
Effects of Offshore Oil and Gas Development:
An Assessment and a Research Strategy.” A
Report to NOAA, National Marine Pollution
Program Office at 13-11.
4 Donatoni, Matthew, “Offshore Drilling”
  National Research Council, Oil in the Sea III,
2003, p. 193, 195.
6 Sayre,Alan. "Agency: Katrina, Rita Destroyed 113
Petroleum Platforms." Associated Press 1 May 2006.
  U.S. Minerals Management Service. Estimated
Petroleum Spillage from Facilities Associated
with Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil
and Gas Activities Resulting from Damages
Caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.
8 August 2006.
  MMS, 2000. Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil and Gas
Lease Sale 181, Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (DEIS), p. IV-40
  Mitchell, Kirsten B. “Bill Calls for Easing of
Offshore-Drilling Restrictions.” Washington
Bureau. 2008.
ctions>Internet; accessed 19 May 2008
   Georgia Institute Of Technology, “Tech
Study Finds Wind Feasible of GA Coast,”
Internet Accessed; available at

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