Opinion

Trump plan would open Maine waters to oil drilling

Posted:  Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 6:00pm
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The Trump Administration today released a dangerous five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean—including off the coast of Maine, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Arctic Ocean. This means that Maine communities, fishermen, and coastal residents could be exposed to significant new dangers from oil pollution. Out of 26 planning areas for potential offshore exploration, only one (George's Banks) would remain off-limits.

On Monday, January 22, from 3 to 7 p.m., there will be a public hearing at the Augusta Civic Center on the proposed plan https://www.boem.gov/National-Program-Participate/#meeting

Read the entire proposed 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program

Elected officials from Florida to Maine oppose opening up our oceans to the dangers of oil and gas drilling, yet here we see the Administration ignoring those concerns and proposing another massive give-away to the oil and gas industry. In just the last few weeks, the Trump Administration has eliminated drilling safety standards put in place after the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and it has heralded opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling as part of the tax bill. This radical step overturns decades of protection of one of the world's most majestic and pristine wilderness areas.

Maine has nothing to gain and everything to lose from this risky plan. Offshore drilling would put our economy at risk from oil spills and seismic testing. Maine's fishing industry could be ravaged from a massive oil spill, as would the tourism economy for coastal towns that depend on clean beaches and clean water.

The proposed drilling plan announced today by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would radically expand offshore drilling in essentially all waters off the United States coastline, and auction off permanently protected areas. The protections in the current five-year plan (2017-2022) were based on thorough scientific analysis and a multi-year public comment period. The current plan had removed the possibility of drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic. Zinke's plan reverses that process to give more handouts to the oil industry.

Offshore drilling won't produce benefits for Maine, but the risks to Maine's coastal economy would be huge and immediate. Oil drilling in Maine waters would mean oil spilling in Maine waters. Current oil rigs are responsible for an estimated 30,000 oil spills per year, and companies pursuing seismic underwater testing and exploratory drilling could harm fish populations too.

The Trump Administration's plan to sell off our ocean waters to the oil industry poses a major, unacceptable risk to Maine's coastal communities and marine life. Now is the time for Maine people and our elected officials to speak up and oppose this short-sighted giveaway to the oil industry, at the expense of our economy and quality of life.

Lisa Pohlmann is executive director of the nonprofit Natural Resources Council of Maine

 

Read the Dept. of Interior press release here: https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretary-zinke-announces-plan-unleashing-americas-offshore-oil-and-gas-potential