Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Drilling Rigs - Part 2

"Eighty percent of the nation’s undiscovered, economically recoverable Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) gas is already available for leasing. Thus, a permanent protection for the coastal moratorium areas will leave the vast majority of the nation's OCS gas available to the industry."
-- Carolyn Esther McCormick, June 14 2006
Drilling Rigs - Part II:
"Invitation to Disaster"

[In the second half of her testimony, Carolyn Esther McCormick explains why H.R. 4761 is dangerous to local economies, risks disaster for coastal America, and is unneeded even in the present circumstance of escalating oil and gas prices.]

(Excerpt of)
Testimony of
Carolyn Esther McCormick
Managing Director, The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau,
Dare County Tourism Board, Manteo, North Carolina
Before the Committee on Resources, United Sates Congress
[edited and reformatted with subtitle guides for the web]

Lifting the OCS Moratorium will have damaging consequences for our beaches, for marine life and their habitat, and for the broader environment

1. Damage to Marine Life and habitat:

While there have been many advances in oil and gas recovery technologies in recent decades, many serious consequences still result from exploration and drilling for either oil or gas.

2. Seismic Surveying:

Marked changes in behavior in marine species in response to loud underwater noises in the ocean have been well documented. Seismic survey devices and military sonar's (which operate at a similar decibel level) have been implicated in numerous whale beaching and stranding incidents, one recently in Nags Head, North Carolina.

3. Onshore damage:

The onshore infrastructure associated with offshore oil or gas causes significant harm to the coastal zone. For example, OCS pipelines crossing coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico are estimated to have destroyed more coastal salt marsh than can be found in the stretch of coastal land running from New Jersey through Maine.

4. Water pollution:

Drilling muds are used to lubricate drill bits, maintain downhole pressure, and serve other functions. Drill cuttings are pieces of rock ground by the bit and brought up from the well along with used mud. Massive amounts of waste muds and cuttings are generated by drilling operations. Most of this waste is dumped untreated into surrounding waters. Drilling muds contain toxic metals, including mercury and lead.

5. Air pollution:

Drilling an average exploration well for oil or gas generates some 50 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 13 tons of carbon monoxide, 6 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 5 tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons. Each OCS platform generates more than 50 tons per year of NOx, 11 tons of carbon monoxide, 8 tons of sulfur dioxide and 38 tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons every year.

6. Oil spills:

If offshore areas are leased for gas exploration, there is a possibility that oil will be found. There were some 3 million gallons of oil spilled from OCS oil and gas operations in 73 incidents between 1980 and 1999. Oil is extremely toxic to a wide variety of marine species, and as noted by a recent National Academy of Sciences study, current cleanup methods are incapable of removing more than a small fraction of the oil spilled in marine waters.

It is important to note that, with the exception of oil spills, the environmental damages described above result from drilling or exploring for either oil or natural gas, so any suggestion that restricting leases to natural gas drilling only will not adequately reduce risk of environmental impacts.

Drilling in the Offshore Continent Shelf will have
damaging effects on local economies

The industrial character of offshore oil and gas development is often at odds with the existing economic base of the affected coastal communities, many of which rely on tourism, coastal recreation and fishing. In Dare Country, NC, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau has been fighting efforts to lift the ban on coastal drilling precisely because it realizes what a crushing effect coastal drilling could have on the Outer Banks’ 640 million dollar tourist economy. If there's one spill or one disaster, the Outer Banks could be destroyed for a very long time.

The powerful hurricanes that battered the gulf coast have destroyed drilling platforms, underwater pipelines and coastal storage tanks, dumping millions of gallons of oil. Drilling in hurricane and storm plagued waters has proven to be disastrous.

In addition to potentially catastrophic effects on the tourism industry, drilling for gas and oil off our coasts could have significant negative impacts on commercial and recreational fishing, our fisheries, marsh lands, and marine habitat. Jobs and the environment are not mutually exclusive.

A balanced economy is based on a clean healthy marine environment and efforts need to be focused on restoring our marine environment and bringing back our fisheries.

Plenty of natural gas is already available
for lease and permitting

The majority of federal oil and gas resources are already available for development. According to the 2003 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) report issued by the Department of the Interior, 85% of federal onshore oil resources and 88% of federal onshore natural gas resources (122.6 trillion cubic feet, or tcf) occurring on federal lands in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are already available for leasing and development. Only 12% of federal onshore natural gas resources are off-limits to leasing. Eighty percent of the nation’s undiscovered, economically recoverable Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) gas is already available for leasing. Thus, a permanent protection for the coastal moratorium areas will leave the vast majority of the nation's OCS gas available to the industry.

In addition to availability for leasing, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data indicates that the vast majority of federal lands currently under lease are not being developed. Of the more than 35,000,000 acres of public lands under lease, development is occurring or has occurred on approximately 12,000,000 acres. Drilling permit approvals on Western public lands by the BLM increased by 62 percent in 2004, to a record number of 6,052, while the number of new wells that were drilled declined by nearly 10 percent, to 2,702.

Based on this data, it is clear that the vast majority of federal oil and gas resources occurring on federal lands in the Rockies are available for development. In addition, most of the leased lands are not in development, and the BLM has issued thousands more drilling permits than the industry is actually able to drill. The oil and gas industry clearly has plenty of access to our public lands already; there is no reason to grant access to additional areas currently under moratorium for additional leasing.

There are smarter, less expensive, and faster solutions
for rising gasoline and natural gas prices

The United States consumes about 25% of the world’s energy. It is not likely that we can drill our way to energy independence. We must decrease our energy dependence by other means and invest more time and money into clean energy solutions.

A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that by getting 20% of our energy from clean sources like wind and solar by 2020 we can reduce natural gas consumption by 6% by year 2020. According to an April 2005 study by the American Council for and Energy Efficient Economy, if we use technology available today to make our homes, buildings, and industry more energy efficient, we can save up to 12.6% of the natural gas they project we would be using by 2020.

Studies have indicated that implementing these programs would create thousands of new jobs and save consumers hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills every year. Promoting renewable energy and efficiency would also encourage innovation and new technology, reduce pollution, and decrease our reliance on foreign sources of energy.

The public supports the ban
on drilling off our coasts

Concerns over environmental consequences of offshore oil and gas development have led
Congress to impose restrictions on OCS activities in sensitive areas off the nation’s coasts every year since 1981. These moratoria now protect the east and west coasts of the U.S. and most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The moratoria reflect a clearly established consensus on the appropriateness of OCS activities in most areas of the country, and have been endorsed by an array of elected officials from all levels of government and diverse political persuasions, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, who are joined by our current President, George W. Bush.


All of America’s coastal communities are being pressured to put their vibrant economies, heritage, and environmental resources at risk when nothing is being done on a national scale to conserve resources and seek alternative energy sources for this generation and generations to come.

HR 4761 rescinds the entire congressional moratorium nationwide, permanently transfers authority over continued coastal protection away from the United States Congress and fragments the decision to coastal states on what is a National Public Policy Issue, and does this in a manner that makes the decision over where and when to drill offshore more readily influenced by the oil industry.

Back to Part 1

Forward to Part 3

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