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Georgia’s senators back oil drilling plans for Georgia’s coast as Obama pushes climate change regulations

Georgia's two senators co-sponsored legislation that would require Georgia's governor to work with federal officials regarding the placement of oil drilling structures along the Georgia coast. Credit: vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

By David Pendered

As President Obama prepares to unveil Monday strong regulations intended to counter climate change and promote solar power, Georgia’s two senators succeeded in passing through committee a bill authorizing oil drilling off Georgia’s coast and for the state to collect revenues from such oil production.

Georgia's two senators co-sponsored legislation that would require Georgia's governor to work with federal officials regarding the placement of oil drilling structures along the Georgia coast. Credit: vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

Georgia’s two senators co-sponsored legislation that would require Georgia’s governor to work with federal officials regarding the potential placement of oil drilling structures along the Georgia coast. Credit: vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue co-sponsored the measure May 11. The legislation was rolled into a broader energy bill approved July 30 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The next step is consideration by the full Senate.

The broader bill provides for Georgia and other coastal states to, “receive a fair share of the revenue from oil and gas activity off their shores,” according to a statement posted on the Senate Republican News website.

According to the statement:

  • “The legislation would ensure that America’s energy renaissance continues by opening additional areas of America’s offshore to responsible oil and gas exploration; allowing our nation’s crude oil to be exported; and ensuring coastal states share in the revenues from offshore production to offset the impacts of development.”

The original legislation was titled Southern Atlantic Energy Security Act, and was introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). The bill had five cosponsors: the other senator from Virginia; a senator from North Carolina; one from South Carolina; and Georgia’s two senators.

Isakson has a considerable record of supporting offshore drilling. In this case, he cosponsored a proposal that would enable offshore drilling in the South Atlantic, provide revenues for states, and require the federal government to collaborate with state governors regarding the, “management of the surface occupancy of the areas between the coastline and 30 nautical miles to mitigate potential concerns regarding impacts to coastal viewsheds.”

According to a Senate description of the proposal, it:

  • “Requires the Department to include the South Atlantic planning area in the outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing program for Fiscal Year 2017 [through] Fiscal Year 2022, and conduct in that area one lease sale during FY2021, and two lease sales during FY2022.
  • “Directs the Department [of Interior] and the Department of Defense to implement lease sales jointly to: (1) preserve the ability of the Armed Forces to maintain an optimum state of readiness through their continued use of the OCS [outer Continental Shelf]; and (2) allow effective exploration, development, and production of U.S. oil, gas, and renewable energy resources.

Environment Georgia opposes the legislation. The group’s director, Jennette Gayer, issued the following statement:

  • “We’ve seen it time and time again: when you drill, you spill. Yet too many senators, including Georgia’s Senators Isakson and Perdue, voted today to expand dirty drilling and put our beachgoers, our coasts, and precious marine life in harm’s way. What’s more, lifting the ban on oil exports increases pollution worldwide and consigns us to a more dangerous climate, while doing nothing to help our energy independence.
  • “Construction for the nation’s first offshore wind farm has just begun in Rhode Island. That’s the energy source off our coast that senators should pursue, and that our beaches, our wildlife, and future generations deserve. Dirty energy sources, like offshore oil and gas, endanger our coast and tourism industries. They are part of the past. Senators should support the clean, renewable energy Georgia needs for the future.”

Obama’s pending environmental regulations are being presented as a legacy issue, comparable to the Affordable Care Act.

The regulations aren’t focused on oil production, consumption or export. The White House has already addressed some of those issues through fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy duty vehicles used for commercial purposes.

The climate-change legislation focuses on carbon produced by power plants. The most aggressive of the regulations would reduce existing coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions by 32 percent by 2030, compared to emissions in 2005. The current target for emissions reduction is 30 percent, according to a report on nytimes.com.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Sylvia Richardson August 3, 2015 12:10 pm

    Oh, no!Report

  2. seagull1 August 3, 2015 12:54 pm

    I think that those that vote for expanding the drilling off our shores should also hold responsibility for any spills and cleanup costs.  These guys are being courted by Big Oil so if they are going to support Big Oil’s wishes they should also share in cleanup liability costs.  Let them put their personal wealth on the line if they are so convinced that the gas and oil exploration will be “responsible” and not harmful to our state treasured shorelines and beaches.Report

  3. OMGKids August 3, 2015 3:01 pm

    My name is Olivia and I am 12 years old.  My brother Carter (now 14) and I started our own nonprofit called One More Generation (OMG) back in 2009 in an effort to save our environment and endangered species for at least One More Generation… and beyond.  Shortly after we started OMG, the BP oil spill happened.  We collected badly needed animal rescue supplies and delivered them on my eighth birthday to the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Center.  We saw first hand how horrible oil spills are and the destruction and death they cause.  We are against allowing drilling off our GA coast and wish our Governor and Senators would please consider saying no.  Not just because we are asking them to but because it is the right thing to do for future generations.
    No one seems to be talking about the fact that in order to find the oil, they will be conducting seismic testing in the Atlantic which is reported to affect 136,000 marine species including the critically endangered Northern Right Whale which makes the Atlantic its home.  There are only around 400 of these whales left and they come to the GA coast to have their babies.  Seismic testing is known to rupture the eardrums of marine mammals and is a horrible way to die.
    Please reconsider and lets spend our time and money on renewable energy such as wind and solar before it is too late.  More animals have died because of oil spills in my lifetime than days I have been on this planet.  Do we want that “Drill, Spill, Repeat” scenario to continue?
    My brother and I would love to meet with both Senators and discuss this in more detail.  We both recently hosted a PAD (Public AWareness Day) at Centennial Olympic Park where we asked people to sign a petition asking our Governor to please take GA off of the list of states that are allowing this to happen.  We were surprised to learn that most people were not even aware this was happening.  We need to speak up and stop this and get people to realize how bad of a decision this is.  Here are pictures from our rally: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1030737263616783.1073742067.108864552470730&type=3
    I know I am only 12 but we do our homework and we reach out to people who know more about this than we do.  We have partnered with the folks at SODA-POP (which stands for Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic – Prevent Oil Pollution) and they have a great website where you can learn all about the issue and the truth behind what politicians are saying:  http://www.sodapopsc.com/
    Anyway, if anyone can help us get a meeting with the Governor or the Senators, please let us know.  We just want to ask them “What are you thinking?”
    Olivia Ries
    Co-founder of One More GenerationReport

  4. Michael Zimmer August 3, 2015 5:37 pm

    Oil and gas exploration is down, across the world. There are 874 rigs operating in north America, down from last year’s 1,015. World wide the numbers are currently 2557 rigs working, down by 28%.
    The oil and gas industries in U.S. contribute one trillion a year to economic impact. 9.2 million jobs are in the oil & gas industries in U.S. 
    Without the oil industry our, and the worlds economy would dry up and there would be a world wide panic. Countries, regions, continents would starve and war would be worldwide. The car you drive would sit rusting wherever it ran out of gas. The train you take would stop dead still on the tracks. All manufacturing would cease to exist. For those “you drill you spill” phony environmentalists, your world would be a bleak place. No more electricity to keep you warm, no factories pumping out your favorite Birkenstocks, no Starbucks coffee shops for you to “plug-in.” 
    Off the coast of Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, California, and Alaska oil and  gas rigs have been pumping out oil for over fifty years, with very little harm to the environment. 
    But what if that wasn’t the case. Suppose oil gushed and flowed across the marshes of south Louisiana and stained the pure white sands of Alabama…so what. Would you give up your comfy abode? Would you park the Cadillac SUV? Would you stop running the AC all day in 100 degree heat? No you wouldn’t. You’d whine, cry, protest, and demand that your creature comforts be “turned back on.” 
    The discovery of petroleum and the way to extract it from the ground has lead an industrial revolution that has raised the standard of living up a thousand fold. Would YOU go back?Report


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