Six Maryland and Virginia congressmen today urged Texaco Inc. to halt its search for natural gas or oil in the Chesapeake Bay region, saying it poses unacceptable environmental risks to the estuary.
The House members, organized by Maryland's Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, wrote A.C. DeCrane Jr., Texaco's chairman, asking him to "seriously consider" withdrawing the company's applications to drill in Southern Maryland and at three sites in Virginia.
"The discovery and subsequent recovery of oil could have irreversible and irreparable effects on the health of the Chesapeake," the letter said.
Texaco officials have said that based on an exploratory well drilled in Virginia two years ago, they expect to find gas rather than oil, if they find anything at all. Environmentalists have said that gas poses fewer hazards to the bay, but they object to the drilling because Texaco has refused to rule out tapping any oil reserves it might find around the bay.
If oil is discovered, the House members wrote, an oil spill from a well blowout, a pipeline break or tanker mishap could have catastrophic consequences for the bay. Unlike the Gulf of Mexico or Prince William Sound in Alaska, the site of the world's largest tanker oil spill, the Chesapeake has very poor flushing, the letter said, so that any leak could damage the bay for "generations to come, if not permanently."
Besides McMillen, other signers of the letter were: Wayne Gilchrest, R-1st-Md., Steny Hoyer, D-5th-Md., Constance Morella, R-8th-Md., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, and James Moran, D-Va.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is reviewing Texaco's application to drill a 10,000-foot deep well near Faulkner in Charles County. A decision is expected next month. lTC Texaco has applied to drill three sites in Virginia.
Texaco has said the drilling poses no environmental risks to the bay. The company has said it will take precautions to contain and ship offsite all liquids used and produced in the drilling operation, and measures are planned to contain a spill if there is a well blowout. Texaco has leased 40,000 acres in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.