The long, dark night of offshore oil is over. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has withdrawn its proposal to allow drilling in the seabed along the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Right whales, bottlenose dolphin, grouper and marlin can celebrate, free from deafening seismic blasts. Pelicans, gannets and terns can fish safely in non-oiled waters. Krill and plankton — foundations of life in the ocean and on the planet — can flourish unharmed.
The victory occurred because people cared enough about protecting marine life, and a human way of life. They commented, e-mailed, spoke, demonstrated and organized by the thousands against a foolish proposal that became an existential threat to the future of our region.
Over the course of the last few years, I have struggled to understand how Governor Haley and her allies could believe ocean oil was acceptable on the South Carolina coast. It was certainly not a lack of facts and analysis. Oil proponents saw the same reams of evidence, from the devastation of the BP explosion in the Gulf to the chronic air and water pollution that has plagued Gulf Coast communities like Port Fourchon.
They saw the U.S. Energy Agency’s estimation of inconsequential impacts of drilling in the Atlantic on the price of oil. They read the analysis of the non-existent benefits for “American energy independence,” and the volumes of material on the contribution of coastal tourism to South Carolina’s economy. The governor and her allies saw the same images, the same economic analysis, and the same numbers we did.
What they didn’t see was the same coast.
When it came down to it, the oil supporters saw a place they simply didn’t care very much about. They saw towns and cities, and beaches and marshes, that they did not love – places that, in their minds, were expendable. They were willing to take a chance on oil, and to accept the damage that was inevitable, for an abstract promise – a fiction – promulgated by people who had probably never been within 500 miles of Charleston, who wouldn’t have known Port Royal Sound from Long Island Sound, who would have been as happy in an office park near Chicago as on a sandbar in North Inlet.
After all of the dollars, the job estimates, the pollution and the risks had been tallied, we had to figure out what it meant. For Governor Haley and the oil promoters, it was an easy choice to sacrifice a place that meant very little to them. Thankfully, thousands of people disagreed, and because of that, we all prevailed.
The articles at the end of this e-mail are just a small sample of the national coverage of the BOEM decision.
On the heals of the victory over offshore oil came a beautiful and important article by Tony Bartelme in today’s Post and Courier. The link will also take you to one of the best journalistic videos I’ve seen.
Tony explains the role of plankton in the life of the planet. Among many other things, plankton is responsible for 1Ž2 of the oxygen in the atmosphere – something, to quote Dr. Seuss, “everybody, everybody needs.” It also happens to come in tens of thousands of stunningly beautiful shapes and sizes. Here it is again. Watch it!
Like most other life forms, plankton is threatened by climate change. I urge you to read this remarkable piece. Now is the time to harness the momentum of the offshore drilling victory as we confront the pressing need to reduce our reliance on carbon-based energy sources.
Finally, speaking of energy, the offshore victory is the legacy of Hamilton Davis, our energy program director. He will be leaving this June to explore the world (first stop, surfing in the Maldives…). Hamilton led the coalition of groups that educated and mobilized coastal towns and cities, producing anti-drilling resolutions in every one of the twenty three jurisdictions (plus the non-coastal city of Columbia).
Hamilton led the campaign and negotiation for South Carolina’s landmark solar legislation, allowing third-party solar leasing, which will increase solar energy production 40-fold in the next four years – speaking of real energy independence. And there is more… He worked with the state’s utilities and electric cooperatives to craft and implement energy conservation legislation that will accelerate home and business efficiency upgrades.
This is quite a legacy for a ten years of work. We are proud and honored to have had Hamilton as part of the team. He has promised to check in with us over the coming few years and… who knows?… he may come back when we need him most.
The Post and Courier
The City Paper
U.S. Department of Interior
New York Times
To everyone who participated in this often frustrating and obscure process – thank you!