Many states want to be left out of new oil leases entirely

Politicians and fishing industry representatives from across the country have been speaking out against a proposal from the Department of Interior that would end an Obama-era ban and open up coastal states for offshore drilling operations.

“I find the whole thing to be really quite alarming,” said Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who requested an interview with the Providence Journal to speak out on the proposal. “This might happen if we don’t oppose it loudly enough.”

The New England Fishery Management Council voted to urge federal regulators to take the whole Atlantic coast out of consideration during its first meeting of 2018.

“Spills don’t happen all that often, but there clearly have been a number of cases that we all know about... where those activities have resulted in some significant impacts to our marine resources,” said Doug Grout, chief of New Hampshire’s Marine Division.

Lawmakers in Washington and Oregon sent a letter Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in mid-February calling for those states to be removed from the proposal.

In California, where offshore drilling developments have been banned in state waters since 1969, and no new federal leases have been issued since 1984, state legislators are working on a bill that would prohibit any new infrastructure transferring oil and gas from federal waters back to land, removing incentives for offshore drilling.

“We’re fundamentally dependent on a sustainable seafood supply for our members’ livelihoods, and offshore drilling is a dire threat to those livelihoods,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “We’re not just worried about drilling; we’re worried about all aspects of the oil economy.”

A 60-day comment period on the proposal began on Feb. 8. Public meetings were held across the country in February and March to gather feedback from stakeholders and the public.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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