Environmental groups bracing for possible change from Trump on offshore oil drilling

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Many visitors and locals alike can be struck by the natural beauty of Georgia’s coastline such as what you would see on Tybee Island. Alice Keyes is one of them and is from the group One Hundred Miles. She says that name “represents the length of the Georgia coast from South Carolina all the way down to Florida .”

“And in that hundred miles – we have a globally significant region because it’s largely undisturbed compared to a lot of other East coast states,” says Keyes. “We have almost 400,000 acres of marshland and 3,600 miles of shoreline river and bank.”

Now Keyes and others are concerned about whether “hundred miles” of shoreline might be considered for offshore oil drilling. In a process that culminated last November, the Interior Department eliminated the Atlantic coastline from being part of any offshore sale for at least five years. But it is anticipated that President Donald Trump may throw out that ruling by signing an executive order which would allow the possibility of local coastline leases.

Keyes says the last process involved pubic meetings in cities up and down the coast. “That process took about two years to collect scientific information and to collect public information to go out and process it all,” she told us.

Now some say it is simply a slap in the face for the new Administration to throw out two years of work, of comments from local leaders who are concerned about the beauty of their coasts and finally, the decision that was made after hearing all that input.

Still, not everyone is against a change. “We’re just happy this Administration is looking at all resources that we have here in this country to produce oil and gas,” says Hunter Hopkins from the Georgia Petroleum Council.

Hopkins says says offshore surveys haven’t been done for about 30 years so they don’t know how much oil may be out there. “We don’t know if there’s oil off the coast of Georgia, it could be in the Carolinas or Florida,” he said. “But if is located off your coast, you know it could bring all types of revenue to the state. it could brings jobs to Savannah and other areas off the coast.”

Keyes disagrees, saying the number of jobs from big oil won’t don’t compare to the numbers already generated by a clean ocean environment. She says there’s there’s concern about damage from drilling and continued climate change by catering to big oil and producing more greenhouse gases. “The natural marshes and wetlands and barrier islands that we have on the Georgia coast really provide a natural buffer against storm surge, against hurricanes, and environmental hazards that we are seeing increase over time,” she told us.

While Hopkins says it’s unclear exactly what the president may order, Keyes says any deviation from last year’s order will be a  call to action.”

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