Military drills conflict with Georgia offshore drilling

Department of Defense says national security could be at risk

New maps from Oceana highlight concerns from the Department of Defense (DOD) over expanded offshore drilling activities and infrastructure in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: Oceana)

A new report suggests that drilling off Georgia could be limited by military training exercises.

 

D.C.-based Oceana crunched data from 2010 and 2015 Department of Defense reports to show that about three-quarters of the area off Georgia is largely incompatible with offshore drilling due to longstanding military operations.

“We want to highlight the fact that DOD’s own assessment of offshore drilling indicates it would threaten the existing national security,” said Diane Hoskins campaign director at Oceana. “These are places for our military to hone their skill set.”

The Atlantic Ocean was removed from the proposed five-year plan for offshore leasing in March 2016 and all pending permits for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic were denied in January 2017, but both are now back on the table (as well as new areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific and Arctic oceans), following an executive order from the Trump administration in April.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, who represents all of Georgia’s coastal counties, supports offshore drilling. He’s well aware of the military’s concerns, he said.

“This information is not new and it seems disingenuous to report on information now that my office and I have been discussing with Department of Defense officials for more than a year,” he wrote in an email response. “While I support an all of the above energy approach which includes offshore energy development, I hope the First District community knows this is not new news to me. I believe any offshore development should not interfere with the missions at Kings Bay and I have been working to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The offshore operations include more than that of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Camden County, said Joe Bouchard, a retired Navy captain and former member of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton. It’s multiple branches of the military.

“Drilling off the coast of Georgia is a horrible idea and DOD is saying no we don’t want you drilling. Training there is too important. And there’s really no where to move it to.”

The area in question is used for a wide variety of live ordnance training including the use of up to 2000-pound bombs and cluster bombs, air-to-surface missiles and gunnery, suface-to-air missiles and gunnery and air-to-air missiles and gunnery, as noted in the U.S. Fleet Forces Command 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement. Major and minor training exercises take place here more than 50 days a year.

“Allowing drilling off the coast of Georgia would impair the ability of military forces to use the area to maintain the combat readiness for deployment,” Bouchard said.

In Virginia, where Bouchard was commander of Naval Station Norfolk, Oceana’s analysis determined that DOD has classified an estimated 94 percent of the waters as incompatible with drilling.

More than 135 East Coast municipalities, including Savannah and Tybee Island, have expressed opposition or concern over seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling. Also opposed are the governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and an alliance representing more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Florida to Maine.

“The Department of Defense could not be more clear – offshore drilling in the Atlantic is a threat to national security,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “With an oil surplus and historically low fuel prices, it makes absolutely no sense to put East Coast communities, state economies and national security at risk, all for less than five months’ worth of oil.”

At least one legislative effort looks to fast track offshore drilling. Last week a bill called SECURE, for Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to require sale of approved offshore oil and gas leases. If enacted, the bill would support expanded offshore drilling and exploration, fast-track seismic airgun blasting, and blocking implementation of the Arctic safety drilling rule.

Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. Additionally, DOD spending amounted to $53 billion in Virginia and $12.6 billion in Georgia in 2015 alone.

“Changes to areas used for military readiness operations could upend these massive contributions to Virginia and Georgia’s economies,” said Hoskins. “It’s time for Washington to listen to those that have the most to lose from expanding offshore drilling.”

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Sat, 11/18/2017 - 11:21pm

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