March 28, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) questioned Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on a number of environmental issues important to Maine people, including the possibility of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Maine, the status of the Katahdin Woods and Water Monument, and Senator King’s legislation to address the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog. Senator King’s questioning came during a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider Acting Secretary Bernhardt’s nomination to serve as the permanent Interior Secretary.
During his questioning, Senator King:
Pressed Acting Secretary Bernhardt on the future of the Katahdin Woods and Water Monument. (Beginning at 00:00)
Senator King: “Mr. Secretary Designate I want to thank you for coming to Maine last week, for visiting Acadia National Park which is a beautiful place any time of year, for discussing with me the future of the Katahdin Woods Monument, for the commitment that you made to work with us on solidifying the future of that monument, and…the funds that are in the budget. So I appreciate that.
Acting Secretary Bernhardt: “I really want to make sure that we move properly, get that plan in place. Acadia is fantastic and I really enjoyed the opportunity there. Maybe we’ll come up and go to Katahdin because I think everybody should, and we ought to be getting there as quickly as we can.”
King: “I hope you will, and as I understand it if we get that management plan done, we’ve got a…
Bernhardt: “You’re rock solid. You’re rock solid today. The Park Service is there – you’re part of the Park Service.”
Expressed his steadfast opposition to any offshore drilling off the coast of Maine, and secured a commitment that the views of each state’s elected officials will be a “major consideration” in offshore drilling decisions. (Beginning at 1:27)
King: “As you know the former secretary created quite a stir a little over a year ago talking about all the coasts are going to be open to offshore drilling… In the case of our state of Maine, I can tell you we’ve got a governor, a legislature, and a bipartisan congressional delegation that is, to use your term, ‘rock solid’ against offshore drilling or testing. Here’s the dilemma I have: we’re talking about your confirmation, your vote may come up in the next several weeks – if a member of the New England delegation votes for your confirmation and then you move for offshore drilling, I don’t know if I can go home again… Can I get your personal assurance here today that the position of the state, its congressional delegation, will be a major consideration in making this decision?”
Bernhardt: “Absolutely, it’s required.”
Secured a commitment that the Administration would advocate on behalf of Senator King’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act legislation, which aims to address the deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service. (Beginning at 00:56)
King: “I think you said this but I want to just nail it down on the record. You and the administration are going to help us, and support us, and push on the Restore Our Parks Act.”
Earlier this month, Senator King convened a meeting in Bangor between Acting Secretary Bernhardt and Maine leaders and advocates to discuss National Park Service priorities in Maine. During the meeting, Senator King underscored the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument’s economic potential for the region, reiterated the adverse impacts of Interior’s review of the monument, and urged the Acting Secretary to address the issue if he is confirmed as the full-time Interior Secretary. This is not the first time Senator King has pushed back against the Interior Department’s harmful review of the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument; in 2017, Senator King urged then-Secretary Ryan Zinke to let the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument stand, citing concerns that the Department of the Interior’s review was having “economically chilling effect” on the local economy.
Senator King has a strong record of protecting Maine’s environment and natural resources, which advance Maine people’s quality of life and are a boon to Maine’s tourism industry and economy. The Ranking Member of the ENR Committee’s National Parks Subcommittee and a steadfast supporter of America’s national parks, Senator King is a lead sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would address the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service. During today’s hearing, Acting Secretary Bernhardt committed that the Administration would work in support of passing this legislation. In September 2018, Senator King toured Acadia National Park with Acting National Park Service Director Dan Smith to assess the park’s critical maintenance needs. The backlog at Acadia alone is estimated at approximately $60 million.
Senator King has also repeatedly spoken out against any drilling off the coast of Maine. After the Interior Department released its proposed plan for offshore drilling, he joined with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) in sending a letter to then-Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing their opposition to the plan. Later that month, he joined the New England Senate colleagues in introducing the New England Coastal Protection Act to bar offshore drilling along the region’s coast. In addition, he spoke against the proposal on the Senate floor in February 2018 and highlighted the threat drilling poses to key sectors of the Maine economy.