As President Obama announces a move toward opening up federal waters in the Southeast U.S. to oil drilling, the mayor of one coastal Georgia city says he wants to see regulations aimed at protecting the coast.
Obama’s announcement would pave the way for oil leases in areas off the coast from Georgia to Virginia.
Tybee Island, Ga., Mayor Jason Buelterman says he’s optimistic the federal government will put in place rules to preserve ocean views. He also says he has questions about what the future holds.
"How close will it be to the shoreline? Will there be a visual impact?" he says. "Will it be something that would happen off the coast of Georgia, or are there better - and I don’t know the answer to this - but are there better possibilities for drilling farther north?"
The Tybee City Council recently approved a resolution opposing the use of seismic air guns to search for offshore oil because of risks to migrating whales.
Environmental activists worry offshore oil rigs pose a risk for spills and harm to wildlife. Megan Desrosiers is executive director of the nonprofit group 100 Miles.
“What we know that will probably happen is that there will be leaks and spills associated with the drilling," Desrosiers says. "There will be a lot of noise in our ocean, and that will affect both the commercial and recreational fishing industry, our endangered wildlife, and also our coastal communities on land.”
Meanwhile, an oil industry group in Georgia is praising Obama's decision. Hunter Hopkins, executive director of the Georgia Petroleum Council, says offshore drilling could generate new economic activity along the Georgia coast as industries develop to support oil rigs.
"We don’t know if there’s any oil or natural gas out there; we’re just excited for the opportunity to be able to go out and do some surveying and see if there’s some out there," Hopkins says.
Obama's proposal would allow oil companies to eventually lease areas more than 50 miles off the coasts of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. It would restrict drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas off Alaska.