Environment North Carolina
Miami Herald
Jared Gilmour

Devastating oil spills of the Deepwater Horizon variety aren’t the only risk posed by expanded offshore drilling in waters off the United States, a new environmental report says.

New oil and gas drilling along the country’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts — which the Trump administration proposed but put on hold — would spur a flurry of energy development on dry land, raising the risk of broken pipelines and refinery pollution in coastal areas, according to a report released Wednesday by Environment America, a coalition of 29 state environmental groups.

“Whether it causes oil spills off our coast or pollution on our shores, offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous,” report co-author Kelsey Lamp, oceans advocate for Environment America Research & Policy Center, said in a news release.

President Donald Trump has previously supported expanding offshore drilling, including signing an executive order in 2017 aimed at opening coastal areas to offshore fossil fuel development, the News & Observer reported in April.

But Trump’s moves were opposed by North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other leaders in states bordering the Atlantic and Pacific, according to the News & Observer, which reported that “offshore drilling is already allowed in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama.”

California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom also vocally protested expanded offshore drilling, writing that “the catastrophic harm from an offshore oil spill is well-established,” and “California has perhaps the highest risk from an oil spill and the most to lose,” according to The Sacramento Bee.

Environment America said Trump’s administration “increased the likelihood of more offshore drilling in January 2018, when it released a plan to open more than 90 percent of America’s oceans to oil and gas drilling” — a plan that’s temporarily on hold. Trump’s offshore drilling plan is supported by the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry group, according to the News & Observer.

The Environment America report warned of “pipelines running through sensitive coastal habitats to air pollution released by oil refineries.”

“The onshore infrastructure that’s required is just one of those things that people don’t always think about when they think about the facts of offshore drilling,” organizer Jean-Luc Duvall said at an Environment North Carolina event releasing the report, according to WECT.

And while Cooper opposes offshore drilling, WECT reported that “other North Carolina politicians have been supportive of the offshore drilling initiative, including Congressman David Rouzer and Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.”

Elsewhere, opposing offshore drilling unites Democrats and Republicans: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast, earning votes from both parties, the Miami Herald reported.

“I think it’s an important first step,” Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, who sponsored the bill, told the Herald. “We’re all going to have to all work together to convince President Trump that this is so important for Florida, that he’s got to support us on this.”

Environment America said the new offshore drilling report details how “toxic waste brought onshore from drilling operations can pollute drinking water and tracts of land. Beyond those issues, air pollution from oil refineries also threatens local residents’ health.”

The report also said pipelines running from offshore rigs to inland processing facilities can worsen water quality in estuaries and increase the likelihood of oil spills on beaches.

“Drilling off our coast may seem far away from homes and businesses, but the onshore infrastructure necessary to drill for dirty fossil fuels creates a pressing threat to the health of both Americans and our ecosystems,” said Wendy Wendlandt, chairwoman of Environment America Research & Policy Center.