WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Oil and gas exploration in the U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean may put some legacy economic interests at risk, a consortium of area businesses said.
More than 10,000 business and hundreds of thousands of families tied to commercial fishing sent a letter through an Atlantic Coast business alliance to President Barack Obama urging him to hold off on expanding access to potential drillers.
Energy companies use seismic surveys to get a better understanding of the oil and gas reserve potential and some groups have expressed concern that action could have a detrimental impact on marine ecosystems. Seismic research could interfere with normal communication patterns for some marine species, though contractors said the impacts are temporary.
The consortium said in their letter to the White House that seismic work could disrupt the 1.4 million area jobs and the $95 billion in economic activity tied to regional fishing, tourism and recreation.
"Although the Atlantic Ocean is protected from oil and natural gas drilling for now, geological and geophysical exploration using seismic airgun testing continues to threaten productive fisheries, marine organisms and ocean ecosystems," Frank Knapp Jr., the president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
The U.S. Defense Department has also said there may be areas of potential oil and gas work in the Atlantic that may not be compatible with defense operations and interests. The U.S. Interior Department as early as Wednesday could release its final five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leases.
The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management pulled the Atlantic off its earlier list, but the potential inclusion of oil and gas areas in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska has generated some concern in environmental advocacy circles.
The Obama presidency is ending and President-elect Donald Trump has put forward a pro-oil agenda. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been mentioned as a possible Interior Secretary under his administration and she favors a drill-centric policy.
Jacqueline Savitz, a vice president at advocacy group Oceana, said Trump's position so far has been fluid, but pressed for careful consideration before he takes office in January.
"We hope that the next president will move away from expanding offshore drilling, and instead build a lucrative clean energy economy for the United States," she said.