Bill would ban offshore drilling

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Savannah, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s another effort to stop oil and gas expoloration off local coastlines but this time it carries the teeth of possible national legislation. South Carolina Representative Joe Cunningham is helping to sponsor legislation that would permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.

Cunningham saying that clean ocean jobs from tourism and fishing are vital to the economies of coastlines up and down the Atlantic as well as on the Pacific shore

“Every coastal state with thriving tourism outdoor recreation or fishing industry is in danger if drilling is allowed to take place off of its shores,” says Cunninhgam.

In Savannah, Paulita Bennett-Martin from Oceana applauded Cunningham’s legislative efforts. (His bill, H.R. 1941, has passed the House Committee on Natural Resources.)

“What it really means is really a productive step forward in the fight against off shore drilling,” she told us.

She said up to 23,000 jobs in Georgia depend on a clean ocean environment and that The Trump Administration and oil companies are receiving more push back on the plan to allow testing and maybe uiltimately leasing.

“But the groundswell of opposition is incredible,” says Bennett-Martin. “it’s probably one of the biggest and most kind of active movements that i’ve seen in recent history.”

We contacted the Georgia Petroleum Council (a lobbying group in the Peach State) and Hunter Hopkins from the Council told us the legislation is “disappointing.

Hopkins said it may be short sighted in terms of finding out what kind of resources are available down the road. “I don’t thnk we need to shut the door on that,” said Hopkins, “We still fully support at least going out there and surveying to see what, if any, resources might lie off the Atlantic Coast.”

Hopkins says that exploration means seismic testing (which environmental groups strongly oppose in terms of safety.) But he says his group’s “research” indicates it is not harmful to marine life.

Bennett-Martin says their research is just the opposite and that “seismic (sound) has a horrible impact all across the ocean web from whales, the largest of the species that call the ocean home all the way down to the plankton.”

She said testing by oil and or gas companies means those companies not only want to learn what is offshore but that the “data will be sold to the highest bidder.”

“As soon as you test you open the flood gates for offshore drilling, that’s their whole intention,” she said.

Meanwhile, both opponents and supporters of oil and gas exploration will be watching Cunninghams’ legislation.

“This bi-partisan bill reflects the tremendous importance that members of both parties put on healthy shorelines and the state and local economies that depend on them,” said Cunningham. “And it’s an acknowledgment that if we don’t act drilling rigs could appear off our beaches in just a few short years. ”

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