Massachusetts congressional delegation urges Gov. Charlie Baker to reject Trump administration's offshore drilling plan
Massachusetts congressional lawmakers called on Gov. Charlie Baker Wednesday to formally oppose the Trump administration's plan to expand oil and gas drilling off the East Coast.
All 11 members of the state's delegation penned a letter to Baker urging him to join other states' governors in officially rejecting the Interior Department's newly unveiled five-year drilling plan, which seeks to open federal waters off the California coast and areas from Florida to Maine for oil and gas exploration purposes.
The lawmakers, who have been critical of efforts to expand offshore drilling, contended that opening areas off the East Coast for such purposes "would pose a serious threat to our oceans and the economic viability of the Commonwealth's coastal communities, tourism and shore-side businesses that rely on healthy marine resources."
Pointing to maritime industries' impact on Massachusetts' economy, the delegation noted that the commercial fishing supported 83,000 jobs in the state and generated $1.9 billion income, as well as $7.3 billion in sales in 2015.
Marine-related tourism, meanwhile, generates tens of billion of dollars in economic value each yeah and supports more than 100,000 jobs in Massachusetts, they wrote. "The economic effects of our ocean community are extensive, providing a source of income and jobs for commercial and recreational fishermen, vessel manufacturers, restaurants and other businesses throughout Massachusetts, all of which would be threatened by allowing offshore drilling and the risk of an oil spill off our coast," the letter stated.
Although the delegation members commended Baker for previously stating Massachusetts' opposition to opening areas off the state's coast to offshore drilling, they asked that he again clarify the state's position given the administration's recent release of its five-year plan.
"Now that DOI's draft proposed five-year offshore drilling plan has been released, we hope that you will oppose this plan that would allow drilling off of Massachusetts, as well as off of nearly every single mile of coastline in the United States ... We urge you to join both Democratic and Republican governors throughout the country in formally opposing the Trump Administration's offshore drilling plan," they wrote.
The congressional lawmakers noted that governors in several states, including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Maryland, have pushed back against the plan.Baker spokesman Brendan Moss, however, offered that the governor already weighed-in on the issue in the June 2017 letter to Zinke about marine monuments.
"Gov. Baker made clear to Secretary Zinke over six months ago that the administration opposes offshore drilling in the North Atlantic and is pleased to see that the Department of the Interior cites the governor's opposition in their recently released draft report," he said in a statement.
U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren signed the letter, as well as U.S. Reps. Richard Neal, D-Springfield; Jim McGovern, D-Worcester; Michael Capuano, D-Somerville; Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston; Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell; William Keating, D-Bourne; Joe Kennedy II, D-Brookline; Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, and Seth Moulton, D-Salem. The proposed drilling plan, which federal officials released last week, includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas: 19 off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic region, according to the Interior Department.
Of the nine proposed lease sales in the Atlantic region, two are for the North Atlantic, three are for the Mid- and South-Atlantic and just one is for the Straits of Florida, officials noted. There are no existing leases in the region and there have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983.
The agency said the proposal represented "the largest number of lease sales ever proposed" for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program's five-year lease schedule.
Officials said the proposal marks an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final National OCS Program for 2019 through 2024.