Earlier this week Secretary Salazar announced the Department of the Interior’s five-year proposal for oil and gas leases in our nation’s oceans. Much to the relief of New England’s fishermen, beachgoers, and coastal businesses, the Obama Administration’s proposal keeps the oil industry out of New England’s ocean and the rest of the Atlantic coast. CLF has long opposed oil drilling off of New England’s coasts and joined with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to block drilling 30 years ago when test wells were being drilled on the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank.
CLF opposes offshore drilling for the very simple reason that a healthy, thriving ocean free of oil spills is worth far more to our region than the oil that potentially lies beneath the waves. From fishing to recreation to coastal tourism, a healthy ocean contributes more than $17.5 billion to our economy every year.
Just over a year ago, we watched in horror as the BP Deepwater Horizon rig burst into flames, unleashing what would become the nation’s greatest environmental disaster. But for the efforts of CLF, our allies in the fishing industry and environmental community and champions such as Congressman Ed Markey, that oil could very well have been washing up on the beaches of Cape Cod’s National Seashore or on the rocky coasts of Maine.
The fact is that unless we get permanent protection for our ocean and coasts oil drilling off of New England’s coasts remains a real threat. Congress has failed to reauthorize a congressional moratorium on drilling on Georges Bank introduced by Congressman Ed Markey, and earlier this summer the House passed legislation that could require drilling off of New England’s coast and in other sensitive areas around the nation.
Given the importance of the ocean to New England’s economy and last summer’s stark example of the danger drilling poses to jobs, the economy, our beaches, wildlife and our quality of life you would think that New England’s representatives to Congress would oppose such legislation, and many did. Unfortunately Representatives Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, both of New Hampshire, supported the House legislation which passed. Most of New England’s Republican Senators, Brown of Massachusetts, Ayotte of New Hampshire and Collins of Maine all supported similar legislation in the Senate. Senator Snowe of Maine joined all of New England’s Democratic Senators to reject the drilling requirement. Fortunately, this time, the Senate voted down this legislation.
Yesterday’s decision by President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar to keep New England’s ocean and coastal economy oil rig free should be applauded as the important step forward that it is. However, New England’s ocean is far too important to our lives and our economy to face such constant threats. It is time for Senators Brown, Ayotte and Collins as well as Representatives Bass and Guinta to stand with the rest of New England’s delegation and support permanent protection from drilling off of New England’s coast. If your Representative or Senator is on that list, you can contact them by calling the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.