CLF’s Tricia Jedele remarks on federal approval of Rhode Island’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan

Jul 22, 2011 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Photo credit: Leslie Boudreau

CLF applauded today’s announcement of federal approval of Rhode Island’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). Developed by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) with extensive input from scientists and government, business and environmental stakeholders, including CLF, the plan aims to balance the protection of vulnerable marine habitats and wildlife with responsible ocean uses including the development of clean renewable energy. Read the full news release here.

This morning, CLF Rhode Island Director Tricia Jedele joined Governor Chafee and members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at a press conference to celebrate the formal adoption of the SAMP, at which she reflected on this momentous achievement:

“Conservation Law Foundation is truly grateful to be included in today’s event – as grateful as we were to be a part of the transparent and inclusive SAMP planning exercise that produced this document.  It is a wonderful and amazing accomplishment that this comprehensive ocean use plan prepared by the smallest state in the country will now be used to help shape the future of sustainable ocean use in New England, including making the path straight for offshore wind energy and other important ocean uses.

So often referred to as merely “the SAMP,”  such a small name for such a massive undertaking, this document demonstrates that often the first step towards getting somewhere is simply deciding that you are not going to stay where you are any longer.

Rhode Island made the right decision. The State could no longer stay where it was.  It had to develop a response to the growing threat of climate change. It had to find new and sustainable ways to create economic growth. It had to protect its ocean resources for today and future generations. And, it had to develop a vision for the coordinated use of those shared resources. Because RI decided that it was time to move ahead, the State is now in a position to facilitate the speedy development of the renewable energy resources we need so badly, to foster the centuries old fisheries industry – an industry that makes us proud to call ourselves New Englanders, and to protect the critical and vulnerable habitat areas that keep our oceans healthy.

Not only is the SAMP a critical building block to the development of a regional comprehensive ocean management plan for New England and a milestone for Rhode Island’s ocean waters, but the SAMP is also a testament to the foresight and dedication of the people working for the State of Rhode Island.

CLF would like to share with you our sincere appreciation of the staff of the Coastal Resource Management Council, and the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island, and the Council itself, for their enduring willingness to engage all of Rhode Island in this effort, to create a genuine sense of participation and a healthy and positive view of our ocean resources.  This team never backed down from a difficult question (even when the hour was late), never failed to receive and hear and learn from the many comments thrown their way (and CLF threw its fair share).  The State made a sincere effort to be responsive and to allow this ocean use tool to evolve in a way that reflected the science and the voices of all those organizations and individuals trying to shape it.

As a result of the State’s fearless approach to public engagement and science-driven planning, Rhode Island is now a national leader, with a plan that will serve as a model for the country.”

View the full transcript of Tricia’s remarks here.

Learn more about CLF’s ocean conservation work.

Imagine Vermont Covered in Oil

Sep 29, 2009 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

On August 21st, the Thai based energy company PTTEP announced that a “crude oil gas leak incident occurred” in the Timor Sea about 155 miles northwest of Western Australia.  The energy company’s press released continued that “the size of the spill is not known.  Aproximately 40 barrels of oil were discharged from the wellhead in the initial incident.”  In the ensuing month, it has become clear that this oil spill is much more serious than initially thought:

Aerial Photo of the oil spill from the drilling platform in the Timor Sea (Source: SkyTruth)

Aerial Photo of the oil spill from the drilling platform in the Timor Sea (Source: SkyTruth)

  1. As of September 25th, photos from NASA satellites document that the oil slicks and sheen from the spill covered 9,870 square miles, an area even bigger than the state of Vermont.  Part of the oil sheen has been moving perilously close to the Cartier Island Marine Reserve.
  2. According to conservative estimates by the World Wildlife Fund, the rig has been leaking 400 barrels a day — over 14,000 barrels since late August.  That equates to about 600,000 gallons of oil.
  3. When the spill was first reported, the government of Australia predicted it would take 7 weeks to clean up.   Already, it has been 5 weeks and the spill isn’t contained.

This devastating spill may be a world away but US ocean waters, including Georges Bank and the rest of the Gulf of Maine, are also at risk because they no longer are protected from the devastating impacts of oil and gas extraction. As a parting gift before leaving office, President Bush lifted the Presidential Moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas on the Outer Continental Shelf that had been in place since 1990.  On September 30, 2008, Congress followed suit and lifted a longstanding legislative ban on offshore oil and gas leasing as part of a large government operations appropriations bill.  As a result, important habitat in the Gulf of Maine, including Georges Bank — one of the world’s premier fishing grounds — is at risk of industrial scale fossil fuel energy development.

As the Saudi oil fields are tapped out, there is increased pressure to drill in remote areas of the ocean.  For example, at the beginning of September, BP announced a “giant oil discovery” 35,055 feet below the Gulf of Mexico seafloor, which itself is already 4,132 feet below the surface of the ocean.  In an ironic twist of fate, just as the ocean is beginning to bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change (see my earlier blog post on ocean acidification), oil companies are stepping up efforts to locate and drill for oil and gas under the seafloor.

Clearly we need energy — but how do we design a sustainable, climate neutral ocean energy solution that will not put important marine wildlife, habitat and ecosystems at risk? As Greg Watson, then a VP at the Mass Technology Collaborative, noted, New England (and Massachusetts in particular) is “the ‘Saudi Arabia of Wind.’” Of course, we need to responsibly tap this renewable resource — we can’t build wind farms wholesale across the region just because there is a lot of wind on the ocean.  Rather, we need to engage in a thorough marine spatial planning process whereby different human uses and ecological resources are identified and mapped and responsible renewable energy development is sited in a way that doesn’t create unreasonable impacts on those activities or natural resources.  Massachusetts is in the process of doing just that — and has released the first in the nation Draft Ocean Management Plan.  In Maine, the governor appointed an Ocean Energy Task Force to evaluate how to develop offshore renewable energy.  Rhode Island is working on an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) in part to promote offshore renewable energy development.  Finally, at the federal level, President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum calling for a national ocean policy and marine spatial planning  framework.  CLF is working on all of these issues.

Imagine if all of Vermont were covered in an oil spill.  Well it has been over a month and an equally large spill in the Timor Sea hasn’t been contained.  Oil and gas drilling is still a risky business and, thanks to former President Bush and Congress, these projects are allowable in US ocean waters.  A concerted effort is needed to make oil and gas drilling old news.  We need to usher in a new era of responsible, climate friendly, renewable ocean energy development.  Help CLF make this a reality!

What can you do to help promote responsible marine renewable energy Development?

  1. Sign the CLF Ocean Petition
  2. Learn more about the Massachusetts Draft Ocean Management Plan, Maine Ocean Energy Task Force, Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan and the National Ocean Policy and Marine Spatial Framework.
  3. Learn more about the Timor Sea Spill
Satellite Image of the oil spill in the Timor Sea.  Northwest Australia is in the lower right hand corner of the photo (Source: SkyTruth)

Satellite Image of the oil spill in the Timor Sea. Northwest Australia is in the lower right hand corner of the photo (Source: SkyTruth)