By Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director at Surfrider Foundation
This post was originally featured on the Surfrider Foundation Blog on January 10, 2018.
The Surfrider Foundation is pleased that Secretary Zinke has recognized that Florida’s coasts are heavily reliant on tourism and that its communities, businesses, and state leaders are strongly opposed to offshore drilling. Hundreds of local communities and state leaders across the country have been loud and clear in opposition of new offshore drilling for the same reasons. We call on the Secretary to listen to the voices from all U.S. states on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, which are heavily dependent on coastal tourism, and withdraw his destructive oil drilling plan.
Just days after releasing a proposal to expand offshore drilling to nearly all federal U.S. waters, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pulled an about face and announced he was taking Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas development. Following a meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Zinke tweeted the statement below:
Needless to say, Surfrider is pleased to see Florida quickly removed from the administration’s draft offshore drilling plan. We couldn’t agree more that Florida’s coastal communities and economy should not be subjected to the damaging impacts and risks of offshore drilling. Moreover, as Zinke himself acknowledges, there is enormous opposition at the local and state level to oil drilling off Florida’s coast.
But, if Secretary Zinke is going to remove Florida from the offshore drilling plan based on those considerations, he needs to take a much closer look at the other states the administration is targeting with its reckless and unnecessary drilling proposal. Indeed, our nation’s economy as a whole depends heavily on coastal tourism, and local opposition to new offshore drilling is swelling from coast to coast, uniting citizens from Maine to South Carolina to California and everywhere in between.
Coastal tourism and recreation generates over $107 billion in Gross Domestic Product for the United States. Coastal recreation and tourism also provides the majority of jobs in coastal areas, accounting for 83 percent of establishments and 71 percent of employment opportunities for coastal communities in the United States. Additional studies by the Surfrider Foundation and our coalition partners to inform ocean planning efforts in the Northwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have documented the extensive public participation and economic impacts of non-consumptive ocean and coastal recreation. For instance, our 2015 Recreational Use Study found that the Washington coast attracted 4.1 million trips in a single year, resulting in $481 million from direct expenditures to the coastal economy.
With respect to opposition from coastal states, Governor Rick Scott is far from the only governor to speak out against offshore drilling. In fact the governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, California, Oregon, and Washington have all announced their opposition to oil drilling off their coastlines. Moreover, opposition from coastal communities is large and growing. Over 130 municipalties on the East Coast have passed resolutions against offshore oil and gas development, and dozens of communities on the West Coast have begun to do the same following the recent proposal. And, finally, 37 senators – most of whom represent coastal states affected by the proposal – sent a letter to Secretary Zinke this week expressing strong oppostion to the Department’s plans to expand offshore drilling to new areas.
In light of these facts, the Surfrider Foundation calls on Secretary Zinke to listen to the voices from all U.S. states on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, which are heavily dependent on coastal tourism, and withdraw his destructrive offshore drilling plan.
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Learn more about the economic contributions of ocean dependent tourism and recreation for each state and planning region click here