The people have spoken, and the President has heard:
The Obama administration is expected to withdraw its plan to permit oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast, yielding to an outpouring of opposition from coastal communities from Virginia to Georgia but dashing the hopes and expectations of many of those states’ top leaders.
I have no doubt that if it hadn't been for the tireless work of many unpaid volunteers working with NC's environmental organizations, this victory (when it's formally announced) would not have happened. These folks made countless trips from the Triangle, the Triad, and even the mountain areas, to various coastal communities to lend their support and organizing skills, the entire time faced with the knowledge they were fighting a billion-dollar industry. And the sheer number of brave municipal governments all along the coast who took a stand against offshore drilling is amazing. Movements like this are rare, and the thousands of hours devoted to making them happen deserves recognition. We should also never forget what's at stake:
On this strip of land in south-eastern Louisiana, the restaurants are still empty, FOR SALE signs are increasing in store windows, people are still moving away, and this marina on Pointe a la Hache – once packed most afternoons with oystermen bringing in their catch on their small boats, high school kids earning a few bucks unloading the sacks, and 18-wheelers backed up by the dozen to carry them away – is completely devoid of life, save one man, 69-year-old Clarence Duplessis, who cleans his boat to pass the time.
“At this time of day, at this marina, it used to be packed,” Duplessis said. “And now there’s nothing.”
It’s been nearly five years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and spilling nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and residents, fisherman, activists and scientists say the cleanup and restoration is far from over. While some phenomena in the Gulf – people getting sick, fishing nets coming back empty – are hard to definitively pin on BP – experts say the signs of ecological and economic loss that followed the spill are deeply concerning for the future of the Gulf. Meanwhile, BP has pushed back hard on the notion that the effects of its disaster are much to worry about, spending millions on PR and commercials to convince Gulf residents everything will be OK.
You can expect a flurry of television/radio/print ads for the rest of this election season, as the oil industry desperately tries to capture the Oval Office so this can be reversed once again. The fight will continue, and more hard hours will be required of environmental volunteers. But for now, thank you. You've given us some breathing room, and you've given those ocean critters a new lease on life.