Editorial by John Streit.

You may have seen the signs around Virginia Beach and certainly if you have cruised through the Outer Banks over the past year. Though the state abbreviations differ, the message is the same: “Don’t Drill.”

The controversy over the Obama Administration’s exploration into the viability of new offshore drilling off the Mid and South Atlantic coast serves as a convergence of local environmental quality, global climate change, energy sourcing and economics. The pot was officially stirred last January when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released its Draft Proposed Program for a 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing ProgramThe DPP schedules 14 potential lease sales in those areas for this five-year period in eight program areas: 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska and one in the Atlantic, which is the focal point for activism by many environmental groups, including the Surfrider Foundation.

The Surfrider Foundation panel with the signed surfboard of more than 1,000 businesses opposed to offshore drilling just before entering White House grounds on 2/16/16.

That is where Surf & Adventure Co. and myself enter the picture. I’ll start by saying that political activism isn’t at the top of the list of my personal interests, but leaving the beach better than I found it by picking up trash certainly is. We’ve been stoked to host several beach cleanups over the years and thoroughly believe that the health of our local natural areas if of the utmost importance. And that’s not just for the enjoyment of beach-going, paddling, surfing, cycling, hiking or anything else you can do outdoors, but for the respect of the only home we know. For a company like S&A that relies on ecotourism to pay the bills, the need for a healthy environment is critical to our survival. That said, I was honored to get the call from Rob Gomez, chair of Surfrider Virginia Beach, represent S&A’s interests as part of an activism panel organized by the Surfrider Foundation to speak to two executive councils, the directors of BOEM and the Council on Environmental Quality, in Washington, D.C. on February 16, 2016. The meeting with CEQ just happened to be on the grounds of the White House, a place I never imagined I’d visit on official business.

But that’s just that the Surfrider panel did on this day. The panel was comprised of D.C. Surfrider vice chair Michael Caruso, Surfrider environmental director Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Mid-Atlantic policy manager Matt Gove, Environment America’s “Stop Drilling” program director Rachel Richardson, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau executive director Lee Nettles, Blue Frontier activist Margo Pellegrino and Matt Walker, Outer Banks Surfrider vice chair and publisher of Outer Banks Milepost Magazine. Each panel member eloquently stated their case against new offshore drilling from Maryland to Georgia, taking a unique angle as it pertained to their position or interest. While the council member did not offer support or resistance to our cause since the DPP has not yet determined whether or not the federal government will open the Atlantic to leasing to oil and natural gas drilling corporations, it was interesting to hear each of them wax poetic about their favorite vacation spots along that stretch of coast. Each group also posed with a signed surfboard of business opposed to drilling, also known as Surfrider’s “Sign the Board” campaign.

The Surfrider panel, BOEM director Abigail Hooper and her staff.

It was encouraging to see our government take the time to hear out the case against new offshore drilling and to represent the interest of so many like-minded surfers, outdoors enthusiasts and businesses was a huge honor. If there was one thing that I could take away from interacting with the BOEM and CEQ brass, it was that this is how democracy is supposed to work. Thanks to the voices of so many people opposed to drilling standing up and putting their opinions on the record, it opened the opportunity for the Surfrider Foundation to organize these meetings.

The Surfrider panel and CEQ director Christy Goldfuss

That said, we are entering another critical phase in the fight against new drilling as BOEM is set to release its revised DPP and a corresponding Environmental Impact Statement by the end of March. A 90-day public comment period will follow the DPP’s release and a 45-day period following the EIS. I invite you to stay posted on the release of these crucial documents and attend a the nearest public comment session in the proposed affected areas. Get involved with the Surfrider Foundation — or any other advocacy group opposed to drilling — and have your voice heard. The timing is critical, as BOEM intends to determine if it will move forward with the DPP by the end of Obama’s term.

About The Author

Leave a Reply