BAKER REITERATES OPPOSITION TO ENERGY DRILLING OFF MASSACHUSETTS
By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 11, 2018.....Reminding him of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation called on Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday to join his counterparts in other states and formally oppose the Trump administration's new offshore drilling plan. Through a spokesman, the governor expressed his opposition to drilling in the Atlantic.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last Thursday announced a proposal that would make more than 90 percent of the national outer continental shelf available for oil and gas exploration -- currently, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage is off-limits, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
In a letter to Baker dated Wednesday, delegation members said the governors of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, New Hampshire, Florida, and Washington had formally opposed the administration's proposed five-year offshore drilling plan. They said energy drilling could jeopardize 83,000 commercial fishing jobs in Massachusetts and 100,000 tourism jobs.
"The economic effects of our ocean economy 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 delegation members wrote in a letter signed by Reps. Seth Moulton, Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch, Niki Tsongas, William Keating, Joseph Kennedy III, and Katherine Clark, and by Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren.
While the delegation is urging Baker to speak out on the new plan, the governor has addressed the issue in the past.
In a June 21 letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pertaining to the federal government's review of protected marine monument areas, Baker wrote that as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management develops its five-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program "the Commonwealth does not support the inclusion of areas of the North Atlantic adjacent to or affecting Massachusetts. For more than three decades, the exploration or leasing for oil and gas in the North Atlantic has not been justified, and we believe this holds true today more than ever."
"Governor Baker is opposed to offshore drilling in the North Atlantic, as he said six months ago, and is pleased that the Department of the Interior cites the Governor’s request to be excluded in their recently released draft report," Brendan Moss, a Baker spokesman, said in a statement.
The Baker administration plans to include a "request to be excluded" from the drilling plan at some point during the 60-day public comment period, according to an administration official.
"Governor Baker [has a] very measured approach to everything. I think he made it very clear earlier where we stood on it. I think we will continue to stand by that and any opportunity to discuss it, we'll continue to do that," Matthew Beaton, state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, told the News Service Thursday.
Beaton added, "I think in conversations with the media we have reiterated our stance. And I think we have made it very clear under no circumstances would we support offshore drilling off the coast of the Commonwealth."
According to the American Petroleum Institute, Atlantic oil and natural gas development could deliver $51 billion in new government revenue, nearly 280,000 jobs and 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent per day for domestic energy production by 2035.
"Eighty percent of U.S. voters support increased domestic oil and natural gas production," Erik Milito, the institute's upstream director, said in a statement. "The administration's new offshore leasing plan will give our nation the ability to access our vital energy resources to help meet growing domestic and global demand while helping to supply affordable energy for consumers, manufacturers, and businesses."
The draft program includes 47 potential lease sales -- 19 of which are off the coast of Alaska and 12 in the Gulf of Mexico -- and the Department of the Interior said inclusion of an area in the draft does not mean it will end up in the final version or offered in a lease sale.
There are no existing leases in the Atlantic Region, according to the department, and no sales there since 1983. The draft proposes nine: three in the mid-Atlantic, three in the south Atlantic, two for the north Atlantic and one for the Straits of Florida.
Environment Massachusetts said last week the area proposed to be opened up "could include Georges Bank, a wildlife rich region of the North Atlantic near Massachusetts." The group urged people to speak up against the proposal, which will be subject to public comment as it moves through the approval process.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management plans to hold 23 public meetings on the draft plan, including one the Hyatt Regency Boston on Jan. 24.
[Andy Metzger contributed reporting]
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