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Oil opposition grows on both U.S. shores

Opponents in Washington state irked with Exxon, while Atlantic energy work concerns senators.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Voices of opposition to oil and natural gas activity erupts on both U.S. coasts, with climate change and early exploration work in the cross hairs. File Photo by Patrick Kelley/USCG
Voices of opposition to oil and natural gas activity erupts on both U.S. coasts, with climate change and early exploration work in the cross hairs. File Photo by Patrick Kelley/USCG | License Photo

SEATTLE, April 29 (UPI) -- Seattle activists who took on Shell offshore Alaska turned their eye to Exxon, while opponents on the east coast raised objections to ongoing energy work there.

Activists from 350 Seattle said they're set to deliver more than 10,000 signatures to state officials calling for the state of Washington to divest from Exxon Mobil. Last month, the attorneys general from 20 states announced plans to work with environmental campaign groups on ongoing or potential investigations into whether Exxon misled investors decades ago about the impact their business had on climate change.

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Emily Johnston, a campaign organizer for the group, said an oil company like Exxon should've taken the initiative on the issue of climate change.

"Exxon was in a position to sound the alarm, and help set us on a path to minimizing those risks," she said in a statement emailed to UPI. "Instead, they lied."

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Johnston's campaign group last year was among those protesting offshore drilling plans by Royal Dutch Shell.

Exxon defended its position, saying its research decades ago widely mirrored the global understanding of climate issues at the time. Most of the pressure now, the company said, is politically motivated and based on reports funded by those organizations working against the fossil fuels industry.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen U.S. senators, mostly Democrats, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to the White House arguing for further protective measures in the Atlantic Ocean against seismic activity used to get a better understanding of the offshore resource potential.

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According to advocacy group Oceana, seismic activity poses a threat to fish and other marine species in part because the sound interferes with normal communication patterns those species use. With tourism and fisheries a main economic driver in the region, the group said the better policy move would be to diminish oil and gas work further.

The letter to the White House said that, while the Atlantic Ocean remains off limits for drilling, exploration is a threat to some of the industries that coastal communities depend on most.

"We ask that you protect this important and productive area from unnecessary, long-lasting harm and halt consideration of all geological and geophysical oil and gas permits," they said.

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