September 15, 2016
By Nate Delesline III
Hampton Roads representatives are part of a newly formed interstate alliance of business owners who are working together to oppose offshore oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.
Individual businesses and business organizations from New Jersey to Georgia recently met in South Carolina to develop plans to stop the federal government from proceeding with plans to permit seismic testing.
The Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast stated in a news release more than 7,000 businesses were represented by those who attended the meeting in North Myrtle Beach.
“We have taken an important step towards our economic and environmental vitality along the Atlantic Coastal states to support the voices of local communities that have made great strides in protecting our livelihoods and shared business interests by opposing the industrialization of our coastlines,” said Laura Wood Habr, vice president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association.
The federal government reversed course in March on its plan to allow drilling for offshore gas and oil in the Atlantic. However the alliance said, issuance of seismic testing permits follows a separate regulatory process and is still moving forward. If the surveys proceed, that could put drilling back on the table, the group said.
According to the alliance, the relevance for businesses in coastal communities is that 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion in gross domestic product through tourism, recreation and fishing rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, which could be compromised by drilling.
If seismic testing proceeds, “local coastal economies that depend on healthy oceans for related tourism activities and commercial fishing will be negatively impacted for years, and if seismic is allowed to open the door to offshore drilling, the Atlantic coast could change forever,” the group said.
The alliance plans to gather business signatures in support of its advocacy efforts and to meet with federal officials and legislators on the issue.
“Seismic testing is not a high profile issue like offshore drilling,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “But it is the destructive demon seed that grows up into the deservedly-feared offshore drilling. Atlantic coast businesses will not let that seed be planted just so seismic testing companies can reap millions in profits from the oil industry,” Knapp said.