Friday, February 16, 2018

What's NOT at stake? And four ways you can help protect our coastline.

by Mike Jarbeau, Baykeeper

There’s just too much at stake. As most are undoubtedly aware, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has proposed opening up the vast majority of U.S. continental-shelf waters, including those off Rhode Island and the rest of New England, to oil and gas exploration and production. In and around the Ocean State, we should be alarmed by this proposal. History has shown us that with offshore oil and gas, spills are inevitable. Even without a major disaster, small-scale leaks from exploratory and production wells are the cost of doing business, at the expense of local ecosystems.

The tourism industry in Rhode Island is worth $5.2 billion
and provides more than 41,000 jobs.
So what’s at stake if we don’t do everything we can to ensure our offshore waters are excluded from BOEM’s plan? The list would be shorter if we considered what isn’t at stake. In Rhode Island, a healthy Narragansett Bay and coastal environment is the lifeblood of our economy. According to the state Economic Development Corporation, the tourism industry alone is worth $5.2 billion to the state and supports more than 41,000 jobs. And the centerpiece of the Ocean State’s tourism economy is, you guessed it, Narragansett Bay and our coastal waters.

Local shellfish industries contribute $12 million to Rhode
Island's economy every year.
Our shoreline provides miles of beaches that would be at risk from the moment offshore waters are open to oil and gas leases. And if billions of dollars from tourism aren’t enough, there is the unquestionable, somewhat incalculable, value of our coasts and waters to those of us who live here. For me and so many others, it’s impossible to put a price on the ability to get to the water to reset your mind. We appreciate the simple existence of clean water and healthy habitats, or the chance to see an interesting bird or catch a fish. Offshore oil and gas drilling is a clear, extremely dangerous threat to many of the opportunities we enjoy in and around the Ocean State.

In Rhode Island, outdoor recreation economy generates
24,000 jobs, $2.4 billion in consumer spending, and
$145 million in state and local tax revenue.
Rhode Island recently released a new ad campaign highlighting the diversity of recreational opportunities available around the state. Half of the “fun-sized” activities currently featured on the website and in the ads would be immediately and directly jeopardized by offshore oil and gas drilling and reduce the likelihood that people would visit Rhode Island to partake in the others. Kayaking doesn’t seem as enticing when the surface water is covered in crude oil. Saltwater fishing becomes an exercise in futility if the fish can’t survive. And bird-watching is certainly more fun when the birds are healthy and thriving in their coastal habitats. I definitely enjoy these activities and am not willing to risk them!

If we want to leverage the offshore environment for energy production, there are better alternatives. We have the opportunity to continue to lead the way in offshore renewable energy. Thanks in large part to the comprehensive stakeholder process and regulatory framework developed by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council in the Ocean Special Area Management Plan, the first offshore wind farm in the nation was built off Block Island. Offshore wind is seen as the most promising source for utility-scale renewable energy production in New England, and Rhode Island is in a great position to lead the charge, based on the positive results and lessons learned during the Block Island Wind Farm project.

BOEM’s offshore oil and gas proposal is a threat to our identity and the industries that truly do create and sustain jobs in Rhode Island. We need to do everything in our power to protect our coastal environment and marine resources. Because no matter how we look at it, there’s just too much at stake.

Help Save The Bay protect New England's coastline from the risks of offshore oil drilling by:

  1. Joining our RALLY TO PROTECT NEW ENGLAND'S COAST! On Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 3:30 p.m., meet us on the north side of the Rhode Island State House. At 3:45 p.m., we'll march together, signs in hand, to the Providence Marriott at 1 Orm's Stree, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding a meeting about the proposal. We'll peacefully demonstrate our opposition to the proposal until 5:30 p.m. 
  2. Attend the Environmental Council of Rhode Island Press Conference just prior to our Rally, in the State Room at the State House at 3:15 p.m. Speakers will include Governor Gina Raimondo, Senator Dawn Euer, Chris Brown of the Rhode Island Commercial Fisherman's Association, and Amy Moses of the Conservation Law Foundation Rhode Island.
  3. Signing our petition opposing this reckless plan. When you sign, Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of Energy Management get a letter letting them know that you oppose offshore oil drilling in New England waters. Help us reach 20,000 signature!
  4. Submit your own comments opposing the plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Use or download our sample letter to guide you.

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