Two U.S. congresswomen and a congressman have introduced legislation to stop drilling for oil and gas off the coasts of New England states, following Trump administration’s recent move which will see almost the entire offshore continental shelf open for oil and gas exploration and production.
As a reminder, President Trump’s administration in early January announced its National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region. This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National OCS Program’s 5-year lease schedule.
Less than a week after the launch of the draft plan, the Trump administration removed Florida’s coastline from consideration for future oil drilling amid pressure from the Republican governor Rick Scott.
The U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke justified the decision to remove Florida from the future offshore drilling plans by saying that Florida’s coast is heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.
As a response to the removal of Florida’s coastline from the proposed five-year plan, a number of public officials from other coastal states also voiced their objections to the plan and asked for an exemption from it.
In a move to protect the coasts of New England states, Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster on Thursday, January 11 co-introduced legislation with Congressman David Cicilline which would prohibit oil and gas drilling off the coasts of New Hampshire and other New England states.
The New England Coastline Protection Act would prohibit oil and gas extraction activities in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
“President Trump’s drilling proposal puts our seacoast communities at risk,” said Shea-Porter.
“Any disaster caused by offshore extraction would devastate our fishing and tourism industries. We can’t let that happen. That’s why I am co-introducing legislation today that would stop this dangerous policy by prohibiting drilling off our coast,” Shea-Porter added.
“Protecting our seacoast communities from the impact of offshore drilling operations is crucial to defending our environment and economy,” said Congresswoman Kuster.
Kuster also added: “The Administration’s proposal to vastly expand drilling operations has been met with bipartisan opposition and a waiver has already been issued to the state of Florida. New Hampshire and New England communities deserve the same certainty that the health and productivity of their shores will not be jeopardized.”
Florida decision slammed
When it comes to Florida, the decision to exclude it from future oil and gas activities has also been slammed by Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell who wrote to Secretary Zinke blasting his decision to exclude Florida while ignoring the local voices of the Governors and states that formally requested their coasts be excluded from future oil and gas leasing activities.
In the letter, Senator Cantwell writes, “I am strongly opposed to your initial decision to propose leasing in virtually all eligible federal waters in the Draft Proposed Plan.”
“I am further troubled by your sudden decision to exclude Florida’s coasts from future oil and gas leasing after meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott. Your decision to give a last-minute exemption to Florida while ignoring over 10 other states who followed the proper legal procedures is a waste of taxpayer dollars and may violate the requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA),” said Senator Cantwell.
“It also suggests you are more concerned with politics than proper process when it comes to making key decisions that affect our coastal communities.”
Cantwell also said in the letter: “As noted in the Draft Proposed Program, the state of Florida did not provide a submission requesting whether to be included or excluded. Yet after meeting with Governor Scott earlier this week, you announced the removal of Florida from the offshore program. While Governor Scott did not request an exemption, the states of Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as many along the Atlantic coast, did request to be excluded from any future oil and gas leasing activities.”
Cantwell added: “I am deeply troubled that you chose to listen to local voices in Florida while ignoring local voices and the governors of states that formally requested their coasts be excluded from future oil and gas leasing activities.”
Senator Cantwell concluded: “I agree with you—local voices matter. And those local voices are present, and getting louder, in my state of Washington and many other coastal states across the country that have long asked to be excluded from the new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.”
The decision to remove Florida from the plan was also criticized last week by the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry association.
Offshore Energy Today Staff