Energy & Environment

Dems slam Obama’s Atlantic drilling proposal

A group of Democratic senators representing northeastern states blasted the Obama administration’s plan to allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

The senators — from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland — said that although the drilling proposal would not include their states, oil spills from the wells could easily travel to them.

{mosads}“If drilling is allowed off the East Coast of the United States, it puts our beaches, our fishermen and our environment on the crosshairs for an oil spill that could devastate our shores,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), long an opponent of the fossil fuel industry, told reporters Tuesday.

“Offshore oil spills don’t respect state boundaries,” he said. “A spill of the coast of North Carolina could affect Massachusetts. A spill off the coast of Georgia could affect New Jersey.”

“All of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

“Oil companies don’t need another handout. They don’t need another gift from the federal government. They’re doing just fine with the billions of dollars of tax breaks that Congress won’t repeal.”

The senators, along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that their top concern with the Interior Department’s proposed five-year drilling plan released Tuesday was the effect that oil spills would have on the people and businesses the depend on their shores, like fishing and tourism.

“The Chesapeake Bay represents about $1 trillion to our economy,” Cardin said. “It’s not worth the risk to start oil drilling off the mid-Atlantic. It’s not worth the risk.”

They said the plan is especially egregious in light of the lessons learned from the 2010 disaster and spill caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig. The federal government has still not implemented the necessary reforms following that disaster, the lawmakers said.

Under the proposed plan, the Interior Department wants to make a single lease sale in 2021 or later for an offshore oil and gas drilling area that could stretch from the waters off Virginia to Georgia.

It would be the first time in decades that the federal government allows drilling on the Atlantic outer continental shelf.

While Northeastern Democrats succeeded in stopping oil drilling near their states, they were still angered that any drilling could happen in the Atlantic.

Booker called it “an absolutely unacceptable move.”

“We on the East Coast will face the sacrifice, we will be bear the burden, we will face the cost and we will have to accept the risk,” he said.

Other Democrats and environmental groups joined them in deriding the plan.

“I am concerned that this new plan includes lease sales that put the entire eastern seaboard at risk of a catastrophic oil spill, especially because Congress failed to enact offshore safety legislation after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the plan “would expose the Eastern Seaboard, much of the Atlantic and most of the Arctic to the hazards of offshore drilling. It ignores the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the growing dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean energy future.”

Tags Ben Cardin Bob Menendez Cory Booker Ed Markey Interior Department Offshore drilling

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