Enviro Groups: Virginia “political elite” Put Oil Industry Ahead of Climate, Healthy Economy

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    From the Virginia Sierra Club; I couldn’t agree more with all of this. Offshore oil drilling is beyond stupid at this point, given: a) the overwhelming science indicating that we have to start rapidly ramping DOWN our fossil fuel use immediately; b) the urgent need to switch to clean energy; c) the non-climate-related environmental damage done by offshore oil drilling; and d) the risk to Virginia’s economy from potential oil spills. No matter how you look at it, offshore oil drilling is the exact opposite direction we should be going.

    Environmental groups and tourism industry representatives respond to

    Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce forum touting offshore drilling

    [Virginia Beach – Sept. 21, 2015]  The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce held a forum on Monday to explore the alleged opportunities associated with drilling for oil and gas off the Virginia coast and highlight its recent visit to Port Fourchon, LA.  In response, environmental groups and tourism industry representatives issued the following statement:

    “You shouldn’t think of Port Fourchon as a coastal community.  Rather, it is one massive shipyard and hardly one that the Hampton Roads would want to emulate”, said Jonathan Henderson with the Gulf Restoration Network based in New Orleans.  “Anyone attempting to tout Louisiana’s economy, should realize the fact that Louisiana ranks last or near last in poverty, education, pollution, and health issues.”

    “Many of the people that work offshore on the rigs come from out of state or even abroad from places like the Philippines,” continued Henderson. “Operators in the Gulf of Mexico region have laid off tens of thousands of workers over the last year because the decline in the price per barrel has cut into company profits.  While companies like Chevron and Shell could absorb a period of downward prices and decreased revenue, their employees are expendable and there is no loyalty.”

    “We cannot trust the oil industry’s vague promises of ‘jobs and boosting the economy,’ especially when those jobs will come at a huge risk to existing industries like tourism,” said Laura Habr, owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro.

    “A large part of Hampton Roads’ commerce is its tourism industry,” continued Habr.  “With all of Virginia Beach’s tourism associations and dozens of its restaurants, hotels and surf shops opposing offshore drilling, it is perplexing that the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce would be so biased in support of this dirty, risky industry.”

    “It is also puzzling for Congressman Rigell to be so actively supporting drilling even as close as just 3 miles off our coast”, said Eileen Levandoski, assistant director with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.  “As again confirmed in a recent congressional hearing in New Orleans, Congress has failed to institute any safety regulations since the BP Gulf oil disaster to make drilling any safer.”  

    “The Virginia political elite: Governor McAuliffe, Senators Warner and Kaine and Congressman Rigell are putting a speculative promise of oil industry jobs ahead of a healthy economy rooted in tourism and the military,” continued Levandoski.  “And they ignore the climate impacts of burning more dirty fossil fuels especially on Hampton Roads”.


    • Abingdon, VA – Five activists disrupted Governor McAuliffe’s keynote address at the Biennial Natural Resources and Energy Law Symposium today by performing a poem written specifically for the Governor and creatively demanding that he “call off” the proposed pipelines threatening to go through Virginia.

      Taking turns with each verse, they stood on chairs and recited a poem titled: “McAuliffe Knows.” Activists said that it spotlighted the hypocrisy of the Governor, primarily regarding his continued support of several natural gas pipelines proposed to devastate Virginia and the Appalachian region.

      Whitney Whiting, author of the poem and community organizer with Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said, “We came here today because the Governor continues to tout a ‘New Virginia Economy’ based on more fracking and more gas pipelines. But there is nothing new about an economic system based on extraction and exploitation of land, people, and natural resources. How will fracked gas traveling through Virginia in massive pipelines benefit Appalachia? It won’t. It will benefit Dominion and EQT, not Virginians, or anyone else in the Appalachian region.”

      “McAuliffe has supported the proposed pipelines for over a year now despite the uproar from the people,” said Richmond, VA activist Rebecca Keel. “Over and over we’ve brought our concerns to him and expressed our alarm, and he still values the energy companies more than the people who elected him. He has not listened. He has not responded. It is time for him to remember who he works for — the people. We were here today to remind him of that fact.”

      The group targeted the Governor and the event-a symposium made up largely of representatives from the energy industry, government and academia, to address the “array of energy opportunities in Appalachia.”  The Governor’s keynote address was timed to occur immediately prior to a panel on “Natural Gas Pipelines,” which included a representative from Dominion Resources.  

      According to the Appalachian School of Law’s Dan Caldwell, the day-long symposium was designed to “model an atmosphere of rational debate” in order to reach common ground on laws affecting energy production in Appalachia. Tickets for the event were $50 for students and as high as $200 for anyone not a member of a government or nonprofit group.  

      In addition to the statewide Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, groups participating in today’s act of civil disobedience included representatives from the SEED Coalition and We Are Cove Point. They said they had accomplished their goal of adding an extra voice to the day’s conversation, and sending the message to Governor McAuliffe and industry representatives that the resistance to natural gas infrastructure in Virginia is stronger than ever.