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Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 10:53pm

Environmentalists Oppose Offshore Drilling Along Georgia's Coast

Environmentalists along Georgia’s coast are opposing offshore drilling along the Atlantic between Virginia and Georgia.

They say drilling will send oil to countries overseas while harming fisheries, wetlands and marshes off the Southeast coast.

Alice Keyes is with the group 100 Miles, which led a protest outside a public meeting about the federal proposal in Savannah. She fears an oil spill could disrupt Georgia’s marine wildlife and natural beauty.

“We have a pretty extensive recreational fisheries industry," she said. "That's $600 million a year towards our states economy.”

David Kyler is with the Center for a Sustainable Coast. He traveled from St. Simon's Island to attend the protest.

“Is it really in our best interest to serve the demands of foreign markets? We don’t think so,” he said.

Also present was Hunter Hopkins of the Georgia chapter of the American Petroleum Institute. He said more offshore drilling would make the U.S. more competitive worldwide.

“API’s done a study that shows that within the next 20 years by about 2035 we expect about 5,000 jobs in the state of Georgia as well as about 430 million to 700 million dollars coming in from taxing and tax revenue.

The plan was announced by the Obama Administration earlier this year and the public informational meeting was hosted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

BOEM’s chief environmental officer, William Brown, attended the meeting Tuesday and said that compared to other sites like the Gulf of Mexico, there is much less oil in this area.

“It only is only a small amount of what we use nationally,” he said.

But, “Congress has mandated that we look at the outer continental shelf and that's a fair amount of oil and there’s more gas out there so it adds up.”

Brown said there are about three billion barrels of oil available, but exact numbers are unknown because the region has not been assessed since the 1980’s.

BOEM members encouraged attendees to submit their comments in written form and online.

Savannah Resident Roy Lynch said a public discussion would have been more advantageous and older residents may have trouble using the online system.

“When you can’t verbally give your opinion or hear what others think that’s a problem. It’s a lack of transparency.”

The federal government will take public comment through March 30th.

QUICK NOTE OF DISCLOSURE: 100 Miles is an underwriter of GPB.