REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Beach businesses across the Delmarva coast are expressing concern over proposed testing for oil and natural gas off the coast.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding public hearings this week on proposed seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean, a move environmental groups worry will lead to offshore drilling for oil and gas.
The recent announcement by the Obama administration to consider resources in the Atlantic could affect the waters from Delaware to Florida.
"There could be oil spills, there could be nothing at all," said Gale Smith, a clothing store manager in Rehoboth Beach. "I just don't think it's good for the environment for them to be doing that."
The business community said the perception of clean water and beaches is key to tourism.
"None of us really know how it would affect us," said Ocean City businessman Tom Griffith. "But it's definitely a negative perception that there could be accidents, oil spills."
The Natural Resources Defense Council expressed concern for marine life and the fish population.
"The decision announced by the Department of Interior promises to do irreparable harm to endangered whales and valuable ocean fisheries in the Mid and South Atlantic," the organization said in a statement.
But with gas prices hovering around $3.75 a gallon on Delmarva, some drivers said drilling for oil off the U.S. coastline could bring more oil to the market, reduce foreign dependency, reduce gas prices and make trips to the beach cheaper for visitors.
"They're drilling everywhere else," said John Stout of Milton. "Shouldn't be a problem."
BOEM held public hearings in Annapolis on Wednesday to gain public input. A separate set of hearings is scheduled for Wilmington, Del. on Thursday.