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Sierra Club Testifies Against Encouraging Offshore Drilling

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to discuss the “Fixing America’s Inequities with Revenues” (FAIR) Act. The Sierra Club’s Director of Lands Protection, Athan Manuel, was on hand to testify in opposition to the bill which would encourage increased offshore drilling with an unwise revenue sharing scheme. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski.

The bill would be a step backwards in regards to two of the biggest challenges we face as a country – our national deficit and climate change. In a time of sequestration, the FAIR Act will direct much needed federal revenues to a handful of coastal states. In addition, the bill will provide an incentive for states to continue to rely on dirty fossil fuels, putting crucial coastal economies and fragile environments at risk. Increased exploration, drilling, and transportation of fossil fuels would raise the risks of catastrophic oil spills, and expose our air, water, and wildlife to significant levels of pollution. In addition, greenhouse gasses released during these processes accelerate climate disruption, causing our planet’s temperatures to rise more quickly.

Even as the Natural Resources Committee was preparing to debate the “FAIR” Act, 44 workers were being evacuated from the Hercules 265 rig. The drilling rig, located 55 miles off of the Louisiana coast, experienced a blowout Tuesday morning. Later that evening, natural gas leaking from the well ignited, causing the rig to catch fire. The fire is yet another reminder of the risks that accompany offshore drilling.

Rather than encouraging more of the same, we should create incentives for states to abandon dirty offshore drilling in favor of safe and affordable clean energy. Offshore wind energy, for example, offers something valuable to our economy and national security – an inexhaustible source of domestic energy.  With 53 percent of our population living on the coast, strong, consistent ocean winds could supply enormous amounts of renewable energy where it is needed most.

An expanded revenue sharing program will simply feed our nation’s addiction to dirty fossil fuels. If we are serious about fighting climate change, we must continue to encourage the use of renewable energy technologies that cut pollution, and create good green jobs.

 -- By Anne Haas

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