Coalition says Biden should offer as many offshore drilling leases: zero

“Refineries, storage facilities, toxic waste sites, pipelines and oil trains poison neighborhoods. Children suffer from debilitating asthma, loved ones die in pain, land sinks, coasts crumble. are eroding and the seas are rising due to the relentless development of fossil fuels. Enough is enough.”

“Offshore drilling harms our communities, wreaks havoc on the environment and contributes to the ‘code red’ crisis of global climate change.”

That’s what a coalition of 193 organizations — including four dozen groups from Alaska and the Gulf Coast — wrote to two Biden administration leaders on Wednesday, the day before a comment period concluded. for the US Department of the Interior’s five-year offshore. drilling plan.

“Offshore drilling harms our communities, wreaks havoc on the environment and contributes to the global climate change ‘code red’ crisis,” the coalition letter states. “The 95 million+ acre proposal for more oil and gas development turns its back on people who have lived with the effects of the industry for generations. It locks in that pain for generations more.”

“It overlooks the ongoing, unprecedented and soon irreversible damage caused by fossil fuels, only to line the pockets of industry under the guise of ‘energy security’. It undermines the broken promise not to renew leases” , continues the letter. “We are maintaining our unified demand despite Congress’s recent passage of the Cut Inflation Act, which contains distressing language regarding offshore drilling.”

While the Cut Inflation Act was announced as a landmark climate package, it conditions the use of federal lands and waters for wind and solar development on future fossil fuel leasing and allowed drilling in parts of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico previously blocked by the Biden administration.

“These provisions do not reflect public opinion or the will of the people, who primarily oppose continued offshore drilling,” the letter states. “The perpetuation of the central and western Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet in Alaska as the country’s sacrifice zones to offshore drilling is of major concern.”

“Insultingly, the proposal concludes that the cumulative impacts of 11 additional sales will be less felt in these areas due to the very fact that they are already sacrificial areas filled with industrial development,” the letter states. “It’s like telling a cancer patient that they don’t need treatment because they’re already sick.”

The groups also pointed out that “catastrophic oil spills are one of many inevitable consequences of offshore drilling”, detailing some of the impacts of previous disasters.

“Combined with rising sea levels and more extreme storms, offshore drilling also puts coastal communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” the coalition noted. “Communities and tribes in the region are already climate migrants, having been displaced due to fossil fuels and climate change.”

The organizations also said “extractivism perpetuates the ethnocide of Indigenous peoples that began hundreds of years ago with early settlers” and stressed that the federal government “must ensure it has a free, prior and informed consent, i.e. consent freely given, by persons fully informed of the consequences – before development can proceed.”

Given the harms and risks of offshore drilling, the coalition told Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that “we need to turn the tide with quick and meaningful action.” , starting with no new leases in the final five-year program, and instead investing resources in clean and equitable renewable energy.”

Representatives of the groups that signed the letter reiterated its key points in a statement Wednesday.

“At a time when we can clearly see that climate chaos is intensifying and we know we need to cut emissions immediately and drastically, the continued extraction of fossil fuels is a universal and existential threat,” said Virginia Richard, Gulf Program Manager at SouthWings.

As the worsening climate emergency puts all life on Earth at risk, some activists have pointed out that the impacts of the fossil fuel crisis are not being endured in the same way.

“With rising sea levels bringing more frequent and extreme storms, offshore drilling is pushing coastal communities directly into the crosshairs of the climate crisis,” said Raena Garcia, a Friends of the Environment campaigner. Earth. “People and ecosystems are suffering enormous damage at the expense of the inflated wealth of the fossil fuel industry. We cannot continue down a path that overlooks the irreversible damage of big oil.”

“Every oil spill starts with a lease sale and that’s not the story we want to tell our future generations.”

CLEO Institute Executive Director Yoca Arditi-Rocha pointed out that “in 2010, the Florida Gulf Coast region was devastated by the BP oil spill that leaked 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf, making it the largest oil spill in US history. .”

“Twelve years later, our Gulf has not recovered and our coastal communities are still feeling the direct and indirect impacts of our reliance on fossil fuels,” Arditi-Rocha added. “Hurricane Irma, Michael and now Ian are proof of that.”

Taylor Kendal Smith, director of communications at Cook Inletkeeper, noted that “every oil spill starts with a lease sale and that’s not the story we want to tell our future generations.”

“Alaska’s economies, livelihood, tourism and health depend on our lands and waters,” she said. “We have repeatedly stood up to say no to leasing oil and gas in our waters and frontline communities cannot allow us to continue down this path.”

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