Could Texaco's search for oil in Charles County result in an Exxon Valdez accident in the Chesapeake Bay? Probably not. Texaco, which built what even environmentalists call "the Cadillac" of drilling sites in nearby Virginia, thinks gas is a more likely find than oil.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, fearing an oil strike and a resulting boom propelled by the fever that follows oil, doesn't believe it. The foundation, whose recent report card found the bay ecosystem barely holding its own, has asked the Department of Natural Resources to reconsider its grant of exploratory drilling rights to Texaco. The danger of a major spill, from well blowouts, pipeline breaks or tanker mishaps must be reassessed, the foundation says.
That's understandable. Organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are in business to be professional worriers. And in truth, the health of the bay would be much better today had there been such a public-spirited watchdog on the job from the beginning. The specter of an oil spill or the potential damage caused by major-league drilling crews and associated support operations is enough to cause concern. But it is worth noting that Texaco's stated intention even if it found oil would have been to send the crude by pipeline to its refinery on the Delaware. Thus, the increased water traffic some feared would not be necessary.