Staff photo of a surf shop in Nags Head, N.C.
Labor Day has come and gone, and so has another summer. This year the season broke tourism records across the Southeast, with visitors to the East Coast's beaches, hotels, surf and tackle shops spending more in many states than ever before.
But if President Obama's plans to expand oil and gas drilling come to fruition, future summers might not look so bright. That's why more than 300 East Coast businesses--from restaurants and fishmongers to realtors and woodworkers--issued a letter to the president this week, urging him to drop his proposal for oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic.
Since January, when Obama's Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management announced its proposal to allow drilling leases off the Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Georgia beginning in 2017, opposition to the dangerous plan has mounted.
Half a million Americans submitted comments against the proposal, record numbers of which were submitted in person. Scores of beach towns and cities have passed resolutions against it, including two more in North Carolina just this week. Hundreds of other local elected officials and members of Congress have weighed in to stop the plan.
And now, add to the growing chorus of opposition hundreds of small businesses whose livelihood depends on healthy marine life and a clean coast.
"For the sake of our beaches, coastal communities and the significant boon coastal tourism provides to our economy, we the undersigned local business leaders are strongly opposed to drilling for oil off the Atlantic Coast," the businesses wrote.
After all, the coast is not just where we surf, sunbathe, and watch for sea turtles; it's also a vital economic engine. According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, coastal tourism in East Coast states generates $4 billion in total economic activity annually and supports over one million jobs.
Oil and gas drilling was banned for decades and currently isn't permitted in the Atlantic, where the lack of industrial development on the coastline has helped allow a host of tourism businesses to flourish, from fishing and surfing, to vacation rentals and restaurants.
Allowing drilling off the Atlantic Ocean -- even absent a major accident -- would pollute our beaches and change the face of our coastline. "When you drill, you spill, and day to day drilling operations result in chronic pollution and the industrialization of the coast for oil facilities," the businesses wrote in their letter.
And then there's the threat of a catastrophic spill. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster took a major toll on businesses in the Gulf, costing an estimated $22 billion in lost tourism in the region through 2013. As Cola Vaughan, a realtor in the Outer Banks who signed the letter to the president, told reporters: risking his state's clean beaches to the threat of a major spill is a "reckless gamble."
A gamble indeed, and for what? The Energy Information Administration estimates the Atlantic Coast has 209 days worth of oil and 13 months worth of gas. As hundreds of businesses who wrote to President Obama can attest: our coastline is worth much more unsullied.
The good news is that while the Obama administration's proposal to allow Atlantic drilling is dangerous, it's far from a done deal. Join us to urge the president to save our coasts and save our summers by dropping his reckless plans for oil and gas drilling.