The Public Voice Prevails in the Atlantic

20100627_newsoilOn Tuesday the Obama Administration revealed their five year leasing plan for the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for 2017 – 2022. Much to the joy of the “keep it in the ground” constituents the lease sales for the Atlantic were pulled from the plan. This announcement is a bright day for us as well. Those who have been following our newsletters will know that much of our policy efforts over the last couple of years has been focused on this issue.

Our comment letter on the leasing plan was just one milestone along the way. Our Atlantic campaign actually began in 2012 with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposal to permit seismic surveys on the Atlantic (Atlantic Geophysical and Geological or “G&G”). All of the back-stage activities and shenanigans that occurred between July of 2012 and February of 2013 would be hard to speculate, but when the revised Atlantic G&G was released for public review in February of 2014 it was apparent that the Administration and the Oilmen were pretty set on surveying, leasing and drilling in the Atlantic.

It was at this point that the pace of shenanigans sped up considerably and became much more apparent. Closed (illegal) meetings between regulators, elected officials, and industry, deliberate obfuscation by regulators, and BOEM’s all-too-cozy relationships with industry all rose quickly to the surface. For a while there the prospects of halting fossil fuel operations in the US Atlantic OCS seemed pretty bleak.

But the public was not taking this sitting down – and a coalition ofconservation groups (Oceana, Southern Environmental Law Center, Surfrider, Sierra Club, and many others including OCR) began organizing. From this effort thousands of citizens showed up at public hearings (Surfriders in beach apparel and chocolate syrup), hundreds of elected officials, Chambers of Commerce, municipalities, and coastal businesses (thanks Oceana!) were all expressing opposition to the Fossil Fuel Future proposed by the industry.

But even with all of this opposition it still looked like exploration and extraction was inevitable. Regulators were still taking their marching orders from Industry. So while there was some recent inside intel that the Atlantic Leases might be paired down a bit, it wasn’t until Tuesday that we knew for sure. The Navy’s chiming in against the leases on Monday provided a clue to where the decision might fall (and provided some cover for the Administration as well).

The Fossil Fuel Industry’s response to the announcement was in most cases what you would expect; hyperbolic (i.e. “the collapse of western civilization”). But there was some measured response as well – in light of the current hydrocarbon glut and depressed oil prices.

Still pending a decision is the Atlantic G&G Seismic Surveys. But in light of the fact that there won’t be consumers for that survey data for at least five years, we suspect that the Atlantic G&G will just slink away under the cover of darkness.