The Trump administration has proposed opening much of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans off the U.S. coast to offshore oil and gas drilling. The environmental dangers posed by offshore oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are well known. The damage to the environment, communities and public health from the onshore infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling is less well known, but no less real.
Offshore drilling relies on onshore pipelines, waste disposal facilities, ports and refineries that endanger public health by polluting the air and water, and threaten wildlife and ecosystems.
State leaders should protect coastal communities and the environment by blocking any expansion or construction of onshore infrastructure that enables offshore drilling.
The onshore infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling has serious impacts on the environment, public health and coastal communities.
Pipelines: Oil and gas produced offshore are often delivered via pipelines to onshore storage or processing facilities. The expansion of offshore oil and gas production could require the construction of new pipelines, disrupting coastal ecosystems and threatening further damage in the event of leaks.
Waste disposal: Offshore drilling often creates waste containing oil, toxic contaminants and radioactive material. Some of this waste may be transported onshore for disposal. Transporting and disposing of this waste creates risks.
Ports and marine oil terminals: Ports support the production of offshore oil and gas by providing a base for the equipment and personnel needed for offshore operations and by serving as an important waypoint for waste generated at offshore drilling operations. Marine oil terminals – berths or piers where tankers can unload oil from offshore production or other sources – help move crude oil to refineries. These activities can be harmful for the environment and public health.
Refineries: Increased offshore oil production may require new or expanded refineries to convert crude oil into useful products such as gasoline, diesel fuel or jet fuel. Oil refineries are a major source of air pollution that threatens public health.
To protect coastal communities and ecosystems, the nation should refrain from expanding offshore oil and gas production. At the federal level, the Trump administration should permanently withdraw its proposal to expand offshore oil and gas production in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. Separately, states should protect coastal areas by blocking construction of new oil and gas infrastructure or the expansion of existing infrastructure needed to support expanded offshore drilling.
Photo: An onshore pipeline carrying oil from offshore drilling ruptured and spilled oil on a beach west of Santa Barbara, California, in 2015. Used with permission ©Paul Wellman/ Santa Barbara Independent