February 06, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about the potential adverse impacts of the Department of Interior’s proposed National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. Senator King’s remarks come in response to the January announcement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that the Trump Administration plans to expand offshore oil and gas leasing to encompass around 90 percent of the United States’ coastlines.
“In Maine…we depend upon the coast,” Senator King said. “Tourism and visitation to our beaches and coastal communities are a billion dollar industry, the largest single employer in our state. So that is an enormous economic engine that is currently working, and running, and powering at least a portion of the economy in our state. And of course, on my tie, I have lobsters. A $1.7 billion a year industry in Maine and it promises to be even stronger as processing is developed. We also have an offshore fishing industry, shrimp, shellfish. It is enormously important. It is part of who we are in the state of Maine.
“In my view, this is a pretty straightforward decision. What are the benefits and what are the costs? And the benefits are speculative at best, limited at best, and the costs are immediate and an enormous challenge for us. The costs of a single incident along our coast which affected our lobster industry or affected our visitor industry in the summertime, and in the spring or the fall, would be catastrophic for our state. So I hope the Interior Department will back off and enter into a process by which they make this decision by talking to the people who are most directly involved.”
Last month, Senators Collins and King sent a letter to Secretary Zinke expressing their opposition to the proposal. In their letter, the Senators highlight concerns that even minor spills could cause serious harm to the lobster industry, which contributes an estimated $1.7 billion to the state’s economy, in addition to hurting other fisheries, aquaculture and coastal tourism. Senator King also joined his Senate colleagues across New England to introduce the New England Coastal Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that would bar offshore drilling along the region’s coast.
The Interior Department’s draft proposed plan includes two auctions for offshore drilling leases in the North Atlantic region, which stretches from New Jersey to Maine. One auction is slated for 2021, and the second for 2023.