Threats to Rhode Island’s Coast Not Worth Risk from Offshore Drilling

For Immediate Release

Providence, RI – Rhode Island’s coastal tourism and fishing businesses generate just over $2 billion annually and provide 56,000 jobs, according to a new report released by Environment Rhode Island today.  These businesses and jobs would not exist without clean beaches and a clean ocean, both of which would be threatened by risky offshore drilling.  BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill illustrates the damage that one large spill can cause to a coastline, its wildlife, and its economy. A spill like the Deepwater Horizon would cover the entire Rhode Island coastline from the Providence harbor to Block Island, devastate beaches from East Providence to Narragansett, and special places like India Point that Rhode Islanders love.  For these reasons, Environment Rhode Island applauded the Obama administration’s announcement that they would take drilling proposals for the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic ‘off the table’ until at least 2017.

Gregory Anderson, state associate with Environment Rhode Island said, “As we saw this summer with BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, oil drilling is still a dirty and dangerous business that usually brings some spilling.  The potential returns from offshore drilling are not worth the risk of destroying our treasured coastline.”

Using government data, the report also finds that the annual value of tourism and fishing along the New England coast is 12 times higher than the annual value of any oil or gas that might be found there. Drilling doesn’t even make economic sense for Rhode Island since sustainable business like tourism and fishing are worth so much more than oil and gas extraction.

Anderson continued, “BP’s catastrophe in the Gulf wiped out tens of thousands of commercial fishing, recreational fishing and tourism related jobs in a 600 mile swathe of Gulf coast. A spill off our coast or a nearby state would do the same.”

In addition to the large economic benefits that flow from use and enjoyment of the ocean, the report highlights the special marine ecosystems, treasured beaches and extraordinary marine life in our waters. Rhode Island has more than 100 well-loved beaches.  And our state has many parks and wildlife areas along our shores including Point Judith, Fort Adams, Rocky Point and sensitive marshes along the coast.

Anderson concluded, “Our research makes it clear that clean beaches and oceans are worth much more than drilling for the last drops of oil off our coasts.  Drilling is simply not worth the risk, which is why we were so pleased when the Obama administration announced that they were going to protect the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic from any drilling proposals at least until after 2017.  The safest drilling on our coast is NO drilling at all.”