[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined a bipartisan group of New England Senators, led by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), in introducing legislation to ban offshore drilling along the New England coast. The New England Coastal Protection Act responds to a move by the Trump Administration to open up Atlantic waters to offshore oil and natural gas exploration and extraction, putting vital coastline at risk and threatening a central economic engine for New England.
“President Trump’s disastrous and irresponsible proposal has the potential to devastate economies and environments up and down the New England coast. Our coastline should be protected as a vital tourism, fishing, and environmental resource – not exposed to the dangers of oil spills or drilling pollution. President Trump’s blatant effort to benefit Big Oil must be met with renewed determination from Congress to protect our waterways for future generations,” said Blumenthal.
“Connecticut residents are outraged. New England depends on healthy, protected shorelines and the Trump administration just put it all at risk. Trump’s priorities are completely backwards – he’s putting the interests of the oil and gas industries ahead of my constituents, and I will do everything I can to reverse this policy,” said Murphy.
Last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the Trump Administration would expand offshore oil and gas leasing to encompass around 90 percent of the United States’ coastlines. Governors from both parties alike have denounced the Administration’s actions, citing the severe economic and environmental effects drilling will have on their states. After a meeting between Secretary Zinke and Florida Governor Rick Scott, the Administration indicated it would exempt Florida’s coastline from the new leasing proposal, raising serious legal questions and triggering allegations of favoritism by the Administration. Blumenthal and Murphy also joined a group of 22 Senators today in a letter to Zinke demanding their states be given the same consideration as Florida.
According to the Conservation Law Foundation, ocean and coastal industries, including tourism, fishing, and recreation, generate more than $17.5 billion in New England annually. Expanding drilling in the Atlantic would harm New England’s vital industries, and significantly increase the chances of environmental disaster in the region.
U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined Blumenthal, Murphy, Whitehouse, and Markey in introducing the legislation. A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI).
“The Trump administration won’t be following through on its reckless choice to allow oil and gas drilling off Rhode Island’s coast if New England’s bipartisan members of Congress have anything to say about it,” said Whitehouse. “For the potential gain of corporate fossil fuel interests, offshore drilling would threaten the Ocean State’s coastal economy and jobs in our state, including fishermen and the thousands of people employed in tourism and recreation along Narragansett Bay.”
“We cannot risk another BP oil spill that would devastate Massachusetts’ economy and our unique environment,” said Markey. “Georges Bank should not become Exxon’s bank. This reckless drilling plan would threaten Massachusetts’ fishing and tourism industry, even as we currently export U.S. oil to China. This drilling plan is all risk with no reward for some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, and I will fight it every step of the way.”
“The Trump Administration’s offshore drilling expansion plan is a threat to our economy, the environment, and public health. Rhode Islanders don’t want offshore oil rigs drilling along our coastline and their voices deserve to be heard,” said Reed. “This bill would help us to prevent oil and gas drilling in New England waters.”
“The waters off Maine’s coast provide a healthy ecosystem for our state’s fisheries and support a vigorous tourism industry, both of which support thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Maine each year,” said Collins and King. “With our environment so closely tied to the vitality of Maine’s economy, we cannot risk the health of our ocean on a shortsighted proposal that could impact Maine people for generations. We are proud to join our colleagues from New England to underscore the need to protect our waters from offshore drilling.”
“New Hampshire has eighteen miles of coastline – eighteen miles of homes, small businesses and wildlife that will be threatened by offshore drilling because of the Trump administration’s actions,” said Shaheen. “This isn’t a theoretical threat. Too many American communities have experienced the economic and environmental devastation that comes from oil spills. We can’t afford that kind of risk to our Seacoast communities that heavily rely on tourism. The Trump administration needs to stop playing politics with offshore drilling and do what’s right for New Hampshire’s Seacoast. I’m glad to stand with the New England delegation to support a ban on offshore drilling.”
“Our coastal communities in New Hampshire are critical to our economy and our environment, and we must do everything that we can to protect them,” Hassan said. “Offshore drilling has caused some of the greatest man-made natural disasters of our time, and we cannot open up our New England coastline to such potential destruction. I am proud to join this bipartisan bill to prevent that from happening and to let the Trump Administration know that our coast is off limits.”