Broad coalition stands up against drilling off of Massachusetts’ coast

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Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

Environment Massachusetts

Boston – Local and state officials, business leaders, environmentalists, and coastal community residents held a rally today to speak out against the Trump administration’s proposal to open up more than 90 percent of the waters off from America’s coast, including an area near Massachusetts, to offshore drilling and seismic testing.

“Imagine an oil spill washing up on the beaches of Cape Cod or the North Shore,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “That’s what is at stake if drilling happens off our coast. For the sake of the beaches, coastal waters, and wildlife we love, we must stand up to stop this dirty drilling plan.”

In January, the Trump administration released a draft revision to the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which could expand offshore drilling to areas that had been previously protected. Among the areas that could be targeted for drilling is Georges Bank, a region of the North Atlantic near Massachusetts. In addition to providing habitat for the endangered North Atlantic right whale and other wildlife, George’s Bank is a hub of activity for New England’s fishing industry.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a public meeting at the Sheraton Boston Hotel today to seek public input on the drilling plan, one of 23 similar events scheduled in the capital of each coastal state. Opponents to the drilling plan gathered at the hotel for a rally prior to the meeting.

In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire, 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill killed thousands of marine animals and exposed residents and cleanup workers to harmful chemicals.

If a spill as large as the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred at an oil rig in Georges Bank, the oil could contaminate a vast area of ocean and coastline including the beaches of Cape Cod, as shown in a graphic developed by the Center for American Progress.

Advocates urged Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to speak out more forcefully against the drilling plan. Earlier this year, Congressman Seth Moulton and Senator Ed Markey authored a letter, signed by all 11 members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, asking Governor Baker to speak out against offshore drilling.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that Florida would be exempted from drilling at the request of Governor Rick Scott. Interior Department officials have since wavered on that commitment, stating that all regions remain part of the plan until the proposed program is released in November or December of 2018.

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed a resolution opposing drilling off of Massachusetts’ coast. House members, led by State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), have also written a letter opposing offshore drilling.

“There are few things more important in Massachusetts than our coast,” said Hellerstein. “That’s why we’re calling for an immediate end to this outrageous attack on our environment.”


Statements from participating officials and organizations

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey: “We stand with the thousands of local businesses, scientists, environmental advocates and fishing families in our state and along the Atlantic coast in opposition to this reckless and arbitrary plan that will devastate our state’s multi-billion fishing and tourism industries and our marine ecosystem. My office will continue to work with our partners to stop this plan and protect our coastline.”

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester): “The Senate has expressed its sincere interest in preventing risk to our ocean waters from any proposed federal oil and gas drilling lease program. Our coastal marine environment contains precious resources that support employment, commerce, research and our quality of life. The well-being of our coastal communities must be protected and defended.”

State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington): “In terms of Massachusetts’ and New England’s values, this is one terrible idea. The country currently has projected surpluses of oil and natural gas for as far as the eye can see. This threat of environmental and economic devastation to our part of the nation could not be more pointless, nor more disrespectful to the traditions of the region.”

State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth): “Opening up our precious shores to oil and gas drilling would be nothing short of a catastrophe for Massachusetts, both for our environment and our blue economy. If the Trump administration were actually interested in solving our country’s energy problems, they could start by investing in clean, renewable energy instead of dragging us backward.”

Emily Norton, Director, Massachusetts Sierra Club: “The Trump administration’s reckless plan to expand offshore drilling would threaten our coasts, our climate, and our communities. We’re here today to send a clear message to Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke: no offshore drilling off of Massachusetts’ coast.”

Melissa Gates, Northeast Regional Manager, Surfrider Foundation: “In Massachusetts, ocean recreation and tourism is the single largest contributing sector to the state’s ocean economy, constituting 79.8 percent of the state’s ocean economy employment, and contributing $3.2 billion to the state’s ocean GDP. Opening up oil and gas lease sales off the coast of Massachusetts would not only pave the way toward devastating the marine environment, it would also erode our economy, our way of life, and our coastal communities.”

Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts Director, The Humane Society of the United States: “Exploration for oil and gas threaten fish and other marine wildlife that are reliant on a clean and health ecosystem. The federal government itself has estimated that proposed surveys in the Atlantic could injure over 100,000 marine mammals and disturb vital life activities of millions more. The Humane Society of the United States is proud to join this broad coalition to protect Massachusetts’ coastline.”

Barbara Burgess, Founder and Chair of Women Working for Oceans: “Our marine life along the Atlantic coast is facing a series of human-made threats and simply cannot withstand the added stress of seismic testing due to oil and gas exploration. We have the intellectual, political and economic power to find alternatives, but mostly we must dig deep and find the heart and courage to do what is right — protect our oceans.”

Peter Shelley, Senior Counsel, Conservation Law Foundation: “If we are to break our country’s addiction to fossil fuels, we need to go boldly down the path of clean energy like greater efficiency and renewable power from wind, tides, and sun. The last thing we need is to gamble with New England’s ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities by drilling for oil and gas and we will fight this Administration every step of the way if they try.”

Lisa Coedy, Coordinator, 350 Mass Cape Cod: “President Trump and BOEM should stop threatening the Cape’s economy and environment with more giveaways to fossil fuel interests and instead focus on accelerating our transition to renewable energy through offshore wind projects in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Sarah Winter Whelan, Ocean Program Policy Director, American Littoral Society: “This new proposal comes on the heels of a separate proposal to repeal critical offshore drilling safety regulations put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Between this proposal to open 90 percent of our offshore waters to drilling and that safety rollback, everything points to the Department of Interior giving mere lip service to environmental, economic, and human safety.”

Karina Wilkinson, Massachusetts Local Coordinator, Food & Water Watch: “We will not allow our state’s beloved coastline to be threatened by Trump’s foolish, dangerous drilling scheme. Congress should step up and stop this outrageous plan by passing a full and comprehensive ban on all offshore drilling. Clean, abundant renewable energy is the only option for a planet facing climate crisis.”

Beth Casoni, Executive Director, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association: “The 1,800 members of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association strongly oppose any oil and gas exploration here in the North Atlantic. The historic commercial fishing industry depends on a healthy and clean ecosystem to harvest healthy and sustainable seafood for all Americans to enjoy. There is no reason to expand the exploration for oil and gas anywhere given that America is transitioning away from these fossil fuels that continue to have detrimental impacts on the ecosystem.”

Chris Adams, Chief of Staff, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce: “The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce stands strongly opposed to any proposal that would open areas on the Outer Continental Shelf off the U.S. North Atlantic coast to oil and gas exploration or production. The threat represented by oil and gas exploration and extraction near our coastline is real. Any spill that reaches our shores, whether from an oil rig accident, or marine transportation casualty, would devastate both our pristine coastline and economy in one fell swoop.”

Philip Duffy, President and Executive Director, Woods Hole Research Center: “Within a decade or two to we need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, or face serious risk of some truly catastrophic outcomes — searching for new sources of fossil fuels is the last thing we should be doing.”