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8/2/2018

The Georgia General Assembly will have to act to stop offshore oil drilling

The Trump Administration announced in January of this year that they were going to open up 90% of all offshore areas of the U.S. to oil and gas exploration, and kill the 50-mile limit that the Obama Administration had fought to put in to protect the U.S. coastline. What does that mean for Coastal Georgia?

Maybe you’ve lived in Coastal Georgia all your life and grew up fishing and shrimping. Maybe you’re like me, and fell in love with the marshes and rivers, and made a deliberate choice to move here. My volunteer work with a group that does dolphin research brought me here.

The Trump Administration announced in January of this year that they were going to open up 90% of all offshore areas of the U.S. to oil and gas exploration, and kill the 50-mile limit that the Obama Administration had fought to put in to protect the U.S. coastline. What does that mean for Coastal Georgia?

None of us want to see this environment spoiled by offshore oil drilling. Whether there is a leak from the oil rig or a spill from a tanker collecting the oil and transporting it elsewhere, we run a high risk of damage to our fragile environment. If oil companies discover significant amounts of oil off of our coast, it won’t be too long before we will see refineries here, similar to those in the Galveston, TX area. It’s much cheaper to process it here than to ship the oil and gas to refineries in Louisiana and Texas.

Although the Federal government will control licensing activity outside of the three mile state limit, that doesn’t mean that the State of Georgia won’t have power. Let’s start with passing a resolution in the Georgia General Assembly to oppose offshore oil and gas exploration. Sen. Jackson, D-Savannah, and State Rep. Carl Gilliard, D.- Garden City, sponsored such a resolution in the last session, but it didn’t get past either Chamber. Rhetoric about offshore drilling promoting job growth ignores that the biggest economic driver in Georgia is tourism. Our beaches are a huge draw. Our fisheries are also a huge business, and we can’t risk crippling it.

Next, we must sponsor a new study to analyze the potential for economic impact to both the Savannah and Brunswick ports and the commercial fishing industry from a “catastrophic accident”. The data currently being used is from 2009 and doesn’t take into account the ports or fishing. Things have changed in the last nine years, and we need good data to understand the effects of accidents on the coastal community.

At the Federal level, we can’t expect help from Congressman Buddy Carter, who has already expressed support for offshore oil drilling. We will have to use every tool we can to prevent this from happening, including reviewing or passing state laws that govern oil and gas development, and using environmental and wildlife protection laws as challenges.

The Georgia General Assembly has a lot of work ahead of it on this issue. I support legislation that will protect our 100-mile coastline, islands, wetlands, and waterways. This is our home. Let’s protect it.

  • Sandra Workman Candidate, Georgia Senate District 1

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