Diverse Alliance Calls on Interior Secretary to Protect Arctic and Atlantic From Drilling

By Yessenia Funes May 26, 2017

Yesterday (May 25), 38 groups of Latinx, Black, Asian American, indigenous and allied groups sent a joint letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to stop offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order April 28 to expand offshore energy production, instructing Zinke to revise the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales to ensure it includes bodies of water across the Atlantic, Artic and Gulf of Mexico. However, environmentalists argue that such extraction puts these waterways at risk—as seen with the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Groups, which include Mi Familia Vota, Hip Hop Caucus and Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, write in the letter that drilling these waters leaves their communities vulnerable to disasters that would harm not only their surrounding environment but also the livelihoods that rely on it. For example, the fishing industry took a major hit after the BP oil spill: At least $94.7 million was lost within the first eight months.

The letter goes on to state:

Our oceans belong to all of us—the American people—and should be preserved and protected, not turned over to private companies for their short-term and short-sighted financial gain. Far more Americans want to preserve our oceans than to turn them over to oil companies to exploit and worsen already dangerous pollution. By opening up the Arctic and Atlantic to risky drilling, you put our waters and coastal communities at grave risk of a major oil spill and worsening effects of climate change.

Communities of color often bear the burden of climate change resulting from the continuing burning of fossil fuels—be it in the form of asthma due to pollution or displacement due to rising sea levels. For indigenous people, in particular, the oceans provide the necessary food and resources for them to sustain life. The groups urge Zinke to consider clean energy expansion instead of fossil fuels to prevent climate change from worsening and putting their communities at further risk.

The letter continues:

Not only are we more likely to experience asthma, sea-level rise, and other negative health impacts due to the pollution driven by carbon and other fossil-fuels, millions in our communities rely on healthy oceans to sustain our economies and feed our families. Our future depends on clean renewable energy, not sacrificing our oceans to drill for oil that harms our families’ health and pollutes our world.

Read the full letter here.