US Cancels 3 Offshore Drilling Plans. Will This Save Alaska & Gulf Coastal Waters?

June 14, 2022

If you’ve been following us here at Peaceful Dumpling, you might be ready to jump for joy and join us in throwing a “farewell fossil fuel” party with us. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen abandoned oil wells transformed to be reused for geothermal energy pumps and Exxon finally being held accountable for the part the oil giant played in the climate crisis. Well, I’m here to share some more good news with you! The U.S. Department of Interior has recently announced that they will be canceling three offshore oil and gas drilling lease sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

These three leases covered millions of acres of coastal waters along the U.S. that would have been drilled for oil. This would have had decades, if not centuries, of impact on local wildlife and water safety for miles and miles away. The effects would have been even more drastic if an oil spill had occurred. There were over 2,000 oil spills in the Gulf from 2002 to 2015. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is a perfect example of an oil spill’s wide-reaching effect. Thousands of animals died from the spill, survivors suffered from infertility, reefs miles away experienced bleaching events from the stress, water quality in the area suffered, and local economies that depended on fishing and tourism barely endured.

A glacier on Alaskan waters

The waters that would have been sold in Alaska are home to an endangered population of beluga whales and are surrounded by glaciers that must be protected. In an email interview with Gizmodo, Kristen Monsell, the litigation director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Ocean Program, celebrated that “taking these leases off the table means the decades of carbon emissions, oil spills and toxic pollution they would have caused won’t occur.” It also means that the U.S. will not have any new oil drilling leases start this year as there were no others on the docket for this year. This has caused some political rumblings with the current national average gas price at a record-setting $5.014 per gallon.

It is important to remember that any offshore leases that would have been signed this year would not have helped the current gas issue at hand. New oil drilling projects can take months, if not years, to completely set up. The current administration seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place as President Biden promised voters back in 2020 that there would be no more drilling on federal lands and would move the U.S. away from fossil fuels in general, but on the other hand, is asking oil companies to pump crude oil and is actively working to increase U.S. oil supplies. In fact, he recently took back his promise of no oil drilling on federal lands and is allowing certain areas to be opened up for future oil well drilling projects.

Reducing and hopefully eventually stopping all oil drilling is critical for the health of the land, its people, and animals. A study has found that ceasing energy-related air pollution, including generation and usage, could help prevent over 50,000 premature deaths and save the national economy over 600 billion USD every year. We also know that the U.S. is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world; burning fossil fuels make up a quarter of those emissions. Although the decision to not lease the coastal waters in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico was due to a legal obstruction after a judge canceled a sale, referring to a failure on the part of the Department of Interior to adequately take into climate risk, the decision is still a huge win for environmentalists everywhere. Celebrating these wins when they happen is so important, but we cannot stop fighting for a better future.

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Photo: Peter Hansen on Unsplash

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Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website www.igashmiga.com.

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