Defend The Pacific and Protect Our Coast
On April 2, 2019, I was invited to testify before members of Congress in opposing the Trump Administrations proposed plan to open our federal water to new offshore oil and gas drilling. Below is my oral testimony.
ORAL TESTIMONY OF MR. VIPUL “VIPE” DESAI FOUNDING MEMBER THE BUSINESS ALLIANCE FOR PROTECTING THE PACIFIC COAST U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND MINERAL RESOURCES
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the importance of protecting our coastlines from offshore drilling.
My name is Vipe Desai, and I am a founding member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast (BAPPC), an alliance of more than 2,400 businesses whose owners and employees love and understand — as I do — just how valuable a healthy Pacific is to our local, state, and national economies. BAPPC aims to ensure the long-term health and vitality of our ocean ecosystems, coastal businesses, communities, and clean energy future. We voice our opposition to plans for expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling, and I am happy to represent our alliance here today.
I would like to begin my testimony with a quick story of how the Pacific has been an important part of my journey. I was an inner-city kid growing up an hour away from the ocean in Los Angeles. If you had asked me at that time to describe the ocean I would have failed to do so, as I had never actually seen it. However, a school oceanography field trip to the Port of Los Angeles would first open my eyes to the ocean and all its complexities. Years later, following a shooting at my school, my parents moved our family to Torrance, California, a small community nestled minutes from the beach, which became our real home. It was at that beach that my love of the ocean grew, and I discovered my passion for surfing. It is both a sport and lifestyle that has guided my career and family values.
It is an understatement that the people of the Pacific Coast, BAPPC, and I are disheartened and dismayed that the current Administration is planning to open the Pacific to expanded offshore drilling. These plans envision the first federal lease sales off the Pacific Coast in decades. Now that the United States exports oil and clean energy alternatives are becoming cheaper and more widely available, these are terribly short-sighted and reckless plans that are simply not worth the risks.
The Pacific Coast is no stranger to the devastation of oil spills. The 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill and the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill are testaments to this. Decade after decade, American coastal communities are told by the oil and gas industry that it is committed to safety and the prevention of these disasters, yet time and again, they occur.
What follows a spill is a drastic economic blow to the tourism industry as transportation, hotels, and restaurants are affected. Non-competitive housing markets due to declining housing prices and the loss of potential buyers emerge. Revenue from commercial fishing and seafood processing decreases. A spill affecting the Port of Los Angeles, an economic powerhouse that accounts for $1.2 billion in cargo a day, would have serious implications for businesses and jobs across the United States. And these are just costs to the people affected. Thousands of species of fish, sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, and invertebrates that make the Pacific home would be impacted.
In sum, the dangers of offshore drilling put at risk California’s $41.9 billion ocean economy and over 600,000 jobs. Likewise, nearly 39,000 jobs and $2 billion in GDP and 128,000 jobs and $10.2 billion in GDP, respectively, would be put at risk in Oregon and Washington.
Pacific Coast states have prioritized the development of an environmentally friendly and economically profitable clean energy sector. California currently employs more energy jobs than any other state and has invested $49.2 billion in clean energy, and in both California and Washington clean energy jobs account for more than 55% of all energy sector jobs. Additionally, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by over 430,000 and by more than 13 times in California and Washington, respectively. This is the path on which we should continue.
To date, more than 340 municipalities across the United States, including 92 along the Pacific Coast, have passed resolutions opposing offshore oil and gas drilling. More than 2,100 elected officials at all levels of government — including the three Pacific Coast governors — have also voiced their opposition. In California alone, polling indicates that 95 percent of residents agree that the condition of the ocean is important to their quality of life, and 69 percent are in opposition of new offshore drilling.
For myself and on behalf of BAPPC, I applaud and thank Members of Congress who are working to protect our oceans and coasts from expanded offshore drilling and for their leadership on bills such as the “Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act,” “Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019,” and the “Atlantic Coastal Economies Protection Act.” The health of all American coastal communities are dependent on healthy oceans.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to answering your questions.