Make drilling ban permanent

May 21, 2010

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) applauds the decision by the Obama Administration to temporary halt the approval of new permits for offshore drilling until the investigation of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is complete. However, we think the moratorium on drilling off the Mid-Atlantic region should be permanent.

For four decades, CBF has taken an absolute uncompromising stand against any addition or expansion of the oil and gas industry on the Chesapeake Bay. While two huge battles against oil refineries in the '70s were met with extreme criticism, supporters in both cases later agreed that oil refineries in their particular locations (Baltimore and Hampton Roads) would have been unwelcome, "Like a snake at a picnic" as one proponent later editorialized.

From my 1978 op-ed in The New York Times: "We are now about to gamble these renewable, aquatic resources for a single nonrenewable petroleum resource."

When President Obama called for the opening of oil and gas drilling leases immediately off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on March 31, 2010, we immediately responded with our opposition.

Offshore drilling creates a new pollution source, one capable of significant, even devastating environmental damage from drilling, transportation, storage or refinement.

The waters off the mouth of the Bay are indistinguishable both biologically and hydraulically from the Chesapeake. Ninety percent of the blue crab population utilizes those exact waters during the early life cycle stages. The crab larvae can float miles out into the ocean at the top centimeter of the water column (vulnerable to even the smallest oil spill) after they are spawned at the mouth of the bay.

Just as science tells us that the waters of the bay's great tributary rivers are an integral part of the Chesapeake system, so too are the off-shore ocean waters, which actually account for more inflow to the bay than all of the rivers combined. Bottom line, when oil is handled around the water, it inevitably gets into the water. The quantity is determined only by the inevitable shortcomings of technology.

William C. Baker, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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