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VA Beach Tourism Industry Unifying Against Offshore Drilling

PHOTO: Virginia's beach tourism industry groups are opposing plans to open up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling. Photo by Krystle Chick and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
PHOTO: Virginia's beach tourism industry groups are opposing plans to open up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling. Photo by Krystle Chick and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
May 11, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia's beach tourism industry is unifying against offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The state's beach resort, restaurant, hotel and tourism trade groups have issued statements against expanded drilling, something the oil industry is pressing for in Washington.

According to conservation nonprofit Oceana, Virginia's fishing, tourism, and ocean recreation support more than 90,000 jobs and generate about $5 billion in economic activity. Caroline Wood, mid-Atlantic campaign organizer with Oceana, says oil spills and leaks would threaten that.

"It's not just the risk of a large-scale BP oil spill," she says. "We're talking about the leaks that happen at the wellhead, the leaks that happen as we're extracting it, as we're transporting it. In every ocean that we drill in, we spill in it."

The oil and gas drillers say the offshore operations could bring jobs and reduce oil imports. Wood says there is plenty of domestic oil production as is and offshore drilling would risk more than it offers.

The Atlantic coast had been off limits, in part because geologists think there is little oil and gas there. But the industry has been pushing Congress and the White House to open the area to more drilling. Wood says part of the problem is regions, such as coastal Virginia that have never had to deal with that kind of industry, could suddenly face it.

"An industrialization and a really radical change of the landscape of what our coastline looks like," she says. "Especially in areas like Virginia Breach, the eastern shore of Virginia, the Outer Banks."

The Virginia Beach Resort Advisory Committee, the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, the Dare County Tourism Board and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce have come out against the drilling, along with other trade groups.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA