May 2, 2019

Coastal New England Senators Introduce Bipartisan Offshore Drilling Ban

Bill would protect ocean economy that generates $17 billion annually in the region

Washington, D.C. – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today led a bipartisan group of New England Senators in reintroducing legislation to bar oil and gas drilling off the region’s shoreline.  While the Trump administration has stalled on releasing the next draft of its 5-year offshore leasing plan, it has not fully abandoned efforts to open areas of the Atlantic continental shelf to offshore drilling.  Oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic puts vital coastline at risk, threatening a central economic engine for New England. 

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) joined Whitehouse in introducing the bill.  Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) has introduced the legislation (H.R. 287) in the House with 20 cosponsors.

“The Trump administration is threatening Rhode Island’s coastal economy by taking steps to open the Atlantic to offshore drilling, even as parts of its broader plan are stalled in court,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus.  “It is clear that President Trump is more than willing to sell out important natural resources to big fossil fuel corporations.  But every coastal New England senator is joining me today to send a clear message that oil and gas drilling will not be tolerated off our coast.”

“Offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean could be damaging for Rhode Island and open up the eastern seaboard to considerable risk.  This legislation is about more than simply protecting the environment, it’s also about protecting tourism, recreation, fishermen, and countless other jobs in industries that rely upon clean water and a healthy coastline,” said Senator Reed.

“The waters off Maine’s coast provide a healthy ecosystem for our state’s fisheries and support a vigorous tourism industry, both of which sustain thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Maine each year,” said Senators 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 our state for generations.  We are proud to join our colleagues from New England to underscore the necessity of protecting our waters from offshore drilling.”

“New Hampshire’s economy, environment and wildlife can’t afford the risk of an oil spill. Unfortunately, that’s not a concern shared by this administration,” said Senator Shaheen. “While the President is trying to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean – which puts the vitality of the New Hampshire Seacoast community under threat – New England’s congressional delegation will not stay on the sidelines. I’m glad to stand with Senators from our region on both sides of the aisle in defense of the New England coastline. Banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean will help to ensure the safety of our communities and the sustainability of our local economies, and I’ll keep fighting to move this legislation forward to protect New Hampshire’s coast.”

“Coastal drilling has led to some of the worst natural disasters in modern history, and we cannot afford to risk harm to New Hampshire’s coastal communities,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill would ban offshore drilling in New Hampshire and throughout the region, and I’ll continue speaking out to make clear that our coast is off limits to offshore oil and natural gas extraction.”

“The Trump Administration’s disastrous and irresponsible offshore drilling plan has the potential to devastate economies and ecosystems up and down the New England coast,” said Senator Blumenthal.  “An indefinite delay in the Trump offshore drilling plan is welcome news, but Congress must remain vigilant in its determination to protect our waterways for future generations. Our coastline should be protected as a vital tourism, fishing, and environmental resource – not exposed to the dangers of oil spills or drilling pollution.”

“Offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean endangers the New England coast and all the families whose livelihoods depend on it,” said Senator Warren. “I’m pleased to join my colleagues in an effort to stop the Trump Administration from risking the environment as a favor to Big Oil.”

“It’s been nine years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, and we cannot risk another BP oil spill that would devastate Massachusetts’ economy and our unique environment,” said Senator Markey.  “Georges Bank should not become Exxon’s bank. Offshore drilling near New England’s coastline would threaten Massachusetts’ fishing and tourism industry, even as we currently export U.S. oil to China.  We have some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, and I will fight any effort to drill off of it every step of the way.”

“Rhode Island is the Ocean State.  We’re not going to sit by and watch as President Trump plunders our oceans for his friends in the big oil companies,” said Congressman Cicilline.  “It’s critical that we protect the jobs and economic growth that our coastline generates for cities and towns across Rhode Island.  We don’t want oil and gas drilling just a few miles off our shores.  This bill will make sure that never happens.”

According to the National Ocean Economics Program, the ocean economy, including tourism, fishing, and recreation, generates more than $17 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.

While the Trump administration last week indicated that plans to open new coastline to offshore drilling were tentatively sidelined after a recent unfavorable court ruling, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management continues to review applications for permits to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean – a precursor to oil and gas drilling.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921