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Dear Members of Congress:

As members of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), we oppose opening our nation’s Arctic and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas exploration and production as it is contrary to our nation’s economic and environmental goals. Expanded offshore drilling would increase carbon pollution, threaten existing coastal economies, deepen the nation’s dependence on oil, and undermine the U.S. commitment to a transition to a clean energy economy. We should be investing in the clean technologies that create jobs and reduce environmental impacts and threats, rather than locking in our dependence on fossil fuels that make climate change worse and risk other economic and environmental values.

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. 

We know first-hand when making investment decisions that markets rely on both price and policy signals. Already the nation is experiencing an explosive growth in renewables and efficiency technologies which are simultaneously helping decrease demand for oil while deploying the critical alternatives necessary to build a sustainable, low-carbon economy.  Expanded offshore drilling will send precisely the wrong market signal, suppressing investment in these clean solutions and encouraging dependence on fossil fuels that worsen climate change.  These signals are crucially important because the best science tells us that to contain climate change we have to find ways to leave 75% of discovered fossil fuels safely underground, not explore for new reserves we can never afford to burn.

Not only would drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic regions erode our nation’s climate goals, it would also come with unacceptable economic costs. In the Arctic, support for oil company exploration diverts critical public resources and comes with a staggering hidden taxpayer price tag. The U.S. Coast Guard has already had to pull a 418-foot national security ship off of Caribbean duty and station it in the Arctic to oversee Shell’s drilling efforts there this summer.[1] And paying for the measures the National Research Council (NRC) says are needed for basic Arctic drilling safety would dwarf that investment. For example, the NRC recently recommended an enhanced U.S. Coast Guard presence and increased icebreaking capabilities in the Arctic, as well as additional coastal infrastructure to support oil spill response.[2] But the construction of just one heavy, multi-mission icebreaker would cost taxpayers approximately $1 billion.[3] And developing even a single deep draft port (more than one may be needed) along Alaska’s northwestern coast would cost another $200 million.[4] Further, a proposed 500-mile road to connect Nome to Alaska’s road system would cost another $2.5 billion to construct and $40 million per year to maintain and resurface.[5]

Off of the Atlantic coast, drilling puts a huge economic resource at risk. In 2012, our nation’s oceans generated $100 billion in tourism and recreation, and supplied more than 2 million jobs.[6] The South and Mid-Atlantic coasts generate more than $40 billion annually from ocean-related tourism, recreation, and fishing.[7] In 2012, the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic seafood industry supported more than 244,000 jobs, and fisherman landed more than 850 million pounds of fish and earned more than $650 million for their catch.[8]  In addition, ocean tourism and recreational industries supported 76% of all Mid-Atlantic and 84% of all Southeast Atlantic Ocean sector jobs in 2012.[9] These ocean industries are critical to this densely populated coast, and should not be placed at great risk by current proposals to open up the Atlantic from Virginia to Georgia to offshore oil and gas exploration and production.  

Healthy oceans and coasts would also be negatively impacted by industrialization and the smaller leaks that are endemic to any oil and gas development. But more devastating would be a major spill. In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, injuring 17 others, and creating one of the most damaging environmental disasters in the nation’s history. This spill impacted more than 1,000 miles of coastline. An area of that extent on the Atlantic coast could oil beaches from Savannah to Boston. Though the economic impacts of this disaster are still being calculated, the Gulf of Mexico commercial fishing industry lost an estimated $247 million as a result of post-spill fisheries closures.[10] In addition, estimates of lost tourism dollars were projected to cost the Gulf coastal economy up to $22.7 billion through 2013.[11]

Were this type of incident to occur off the Atlantic coast, it would be disastrous to economies and communities all along this densely populated area. A spill in the Arctic would be equally devastating.  Far from any relief and in one of the most challenging environments on Earth, a spill would be more than our U.S. Coast Guard is able to handle today; impossible to clean up and extremely costly. It also would result in lasting harm to an ecosystem that sustains polar bears, walrus, and millions of migratory birds.

In stark contrast, offshore wind resources are abundant and when properly developed can provide clean energy, and economic growth without sacrificing our environment. For example, tapping just one quarter of our nation’s offshore wind potential would provide as much electricity as our nation’s combined generating capacity of fossil fuel-based power plants. In the Atlantic, modest development of clean, renewable offshore wind could create about 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling. In just 13 years, offshore wind could provide more energy than could be provided by drilling known reserves.

Once again, as business people and others who support smart economic and environmental policy, we oppose exposing our climate and coasts to the severe risks of expanded offshore drilling. If we are serious about addressing climate change and building a sustainable, clean energy economy it is essential that we embrace a consistent national energy policy that transitions away from fossil fuels towards a clean energy economy. Opening vast new areas to oil extraction and threatening our coastal economies is completely inconsistent with that vision.  

We appreciate your attention to this critical issue.

Sincerely,


_____________________
[1] http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0QG1VK20150811
[2] National Research Council, Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment (The National Academies Press 2014), pp. 8-10.
[3] Ronald O’Rourke, Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress (Congressional Research Service, June 2, 2015), p. 11.
[4] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, Pacific Ocean Division, Draft Integrated Feasibility Report, Draft Environmental Assessment (EA), and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI): Alaska Deep-Draft Arctic Port System Study (Feb. 2015), Executive Summary.
[5] See http://www.adn.com/article/20100126/nome-road-could-cost-27-billion (last accessed Aug. 25, 2015).
[6] National Ocean Economics Program, Market Data,
http://www.oceaneconomics.org/Market/coastal/coastalEcon.asp (accessed March 11,
2015).
[7] National Ocean Economics Program, “Value of Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Regions Living Resources, Tourism and Recreation Industries for 2012,” National Ocean Economic Program,
hwww.oceaneconomics.org. (Accessed May 14, 2015)
[8] National Marine Fisheries Service. 2014. Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2012. U.S. Dept Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-137p, https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st5/publication/index.html
[9] US Dept of Interior, BOEM, Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program 2017-2012, January 2015, http://www.boem.gov/2017-2022-DPP
[10] McCrea-Strub, A, et al. 2011. Potential impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Fisheries, Vol 36(7):332-336. 
[11] Oxford Economics. Potential Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on Tourism.  A report prepared for the U.S. Travel Association, https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/page/2009/11/Gulf_Oil_Spill_Analysis_Oxford_Economics_710.pdf
 

 

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