White House Plans to Vastly Expand Drilling near America’s Beaches and Coasts

The proposed five-year plan exposes critical shorebird habitat and coastal communities to dangerous and unnecessary oil drilling.

NEW YORK — “No coastal community—whether for people or birds—thrives in the shadow of offshore oil rigs. There are places where offshore drilling is already a fact. Let’s make the smart choice to limit drilling to those places and not to take dumb risks like drilling in the Arctic or off coasts that rely on tourism,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon’s president and CEO, in response to the five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan released today by the Department of the Interior.

“Coastal communities profit from sustainable beach tourism and protecting birds and places they need, both of which would be directly affected by oil spills.

“This five-year plan ignores millions of Americans who don’t want their shorelines put in harm’s way.”

The new plan includes parts of the outer continental shelf (OCS) along the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The National Audubon Society supports limiting offshore drilling to where leases are already active. Expanding lease sales to sensitive marine areas off the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific coasts threatens critical bird habitat as well as the economic viability of hundreds of coastal communities. 

From coast to coast, Audubon experts oppose the expansion of new offshore leasing.

Oil and Ice Don’t Mix: Arctic Offshore Drilling Is Especially Risky

“The Arctic Ocean provides necessary habitat for seabirds and marine mammals. Wildlife hotspots like Hanna Shoal and Smith Bay form the backbone of the Arctic marine ecosystem, and the science strongly supports their ongoing protection,” said Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska.

“Scheduling oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Ocean as part of the five-year plan is terribly irresponsible, putting a fragile ecosystem that is already stressed by climate change at further risk from oil spills for which there is no capacity to respond to in any meaningful way.”

Atlantic Communities Rally against Offshore Drilling

“More than 100 coastal communities up and down the Atlantic coast have passed resolutions against the expansion of offshore drilling—will the White House listen?” asked Walker Golder, director of Audubon’s Atlantic Coast Initiative.

“Risking damage to the marine biodiversity and fisheries off the Atlantic coast by drilling for oil would be a short-sighted decision. Removing the Atlantic coast from the offshore leasing program will benefit people, birds and other wildlife of the Atlantic coast for generations to come.”

Atlantic seabirds and shorebirds that would be especially at-risk from offshore oil and gas development include: Red Knots, Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Greater Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters and Roseate Terns.

California Recalls Disastrous Experience with Offshore Drilling

“The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill taught us that drilling off our beautiful coasts wasn’t worth the gamble, and we’ve unfortunately had to learn that same lesson many times since,” said Michael Lynes, director of public policy for Audubon California.

“Californians have made it clear time and time again that they stand against new oil drilling off their coast, and Audubon California will stand with the people in opposing any new effort to expand it.

“This is not about sensible economic development,” Lynes added. “It’s about the crass exploitation of natural resources in a way that threatens California’s bird, marine life, and fishing industry – and our truly Californian way of life.”

What’s Next?

The five-year proposal will be subject to a 60-day public comment period. Audubon is calling upon its 1.2 million members to submit comment in opposition of such a dangerous and unnecessary expansion of offshore drilling.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Contact: media@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.