LIHUE — The deepest channel in the main Hawaiian Islands lies between Oahu and Kauai, and though the chain’s oldest main island isn’t at the top of the list for offshore-drilling-related activities, activists are still supporting legislative opposition to new oil and gas programs.
Tuesday, state Sen. Mike Gabbard joined more than 225 other legislators from coastal states who are trying to limit new offshore drilling capabilities off their coastlines — and that’s in the face of the Trump administration’s proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
Concerns are that the industry would impact income and recreation in coastal areas, as well as add to greenhouse gas emissions and increase the impacts of climate change.
“I realize that we won’t be the first on banning offshore drilling for fossil fuels, as five states have already beat us to the punch,” said Gabbard in a Tuesday news release. “At this point we don’t have proven petroleum or natural gas reserves or production, but it’s still important that we join with other states and lead on this important issue.”
While Gabbard acknowledged there aren’t currently proven reserves in Hawaii, Gordon LaBedz and Carl Berg with Surfrider Kauai Chapter said it’s still important to band together in search of alternative energy solutions aside from petroleum.
“Please don’t think because they haven’t found oil in Hawaiian waters yet that Hawaii will be immune. There are all sorts of stuff that these big companies want to mine off the ocean seabed,” LaBedz said.
He praised Gabbard, saying the senator has always been “an environmental champion,” and pointed out that marine mammals’ senses of direction and feeding techniques are impacted by seismic blasting.
“Every few seconds, a horrendous blast gets blown through the coastal ocean so that these oil miners can see if there is petroleum underneath the sea. It can break an eardrum of both humans and whales,” he said.
Surfrider Kauai Chapter, and statewide, have been part of events like the “Hands Across the Sea” protest, which promotes ocean health, calls for the end of harmful practices and is actively inviting people to contact legislators to encourage them to take a stance against offshore drilling.
“Kauai is fortunate that we are sitting in the middle of a very deep ocean that does not render itself to offshore drilling,” said Berg. “We do, however, receive oil on our shores from spills occurring on Oahu, as in the past.”
He pointed out that he hasn’t heard of any proposed drilling in Hawaii, either, but says that, as a nation, “we must wean ourselves from petroleum, whether it be for fuel or for plastics.”
And Gabbard says he’s going to be introducing bills in the coming weeks that will target offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in state marine waters.
“I’m hopeful that our combined legislation efforts will send a message to our current president that it’s time to transition away from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy,” he said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.