AUGUSTA, ME. — Wednesday, March 7, 2018 – Today at a news conference in Augusta. elected officials, business leaders, conservation leaders, fishermen and women and other Maine residents spoke out against a new plan to allow offshore oil drilling and exploration off the coast of Maine
The event was held in response to a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) “public meeting” at the Augusta Civic Center today, which was designed to hide Mainers’ vocal opposition to oil drilling off the coast by avoiding an opportunity for citizens to speak at a microphone in an official hearing format.
“The forum of the BOEM meeting is designed to keep us from standing up and speaking our minds,” said retired lobsterman, Richard Nelson of Friendship. “This meeting is more like a government version of a poster session than a meaningful public meeting. I view this as an affront to the people of Maine, to think that informational table diversions can somehow keep us from standing up and speaking our minds. BOEM should be required to step it up, and give Mainers more say in the process.”
While BOEM was setting up in the North Wing, public interest groups hosted an open mic in the Aroostook Room, where citizens were invited to step up to a microphone and comment on the Trump Administration’s oil drilling proposal. These comments will be submitted into the official public comment record.
In Maine, there is widespread opposition to the oil drilling proposal, including from Maine’s U.S. Senators and entire Congressional delegation, a unanimous vote of the Maine House and Senate, and many other elected leaders, fishermen and women, concerned citizens, hundreds of business leaders, and nonprofit public interest organizations.
“In Maine, we have everything to lose and nothing to gain from this disastrous drilling plan,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “Thousands of Mainers working in two of our state’s biggest industries—fishing and tourism—depend on a beautiful, healthy coastline and ocean to make a living. An oil spill would be absolutely disastrous to the state’s economy and environment. This proposal’s lack of transparency and fairness couldn’t be more apparent than when Governor Rick Scott of Florida somehow earned an exemption for his state. Maine shouldn’t have to be home to Mar-a-Lago to be protected from this awful plan.”
The draft drilling plan threatens Maine’s tourism, and marine industries, which provide more than $2.3 billion in GDP and 46,319 jobs annually in Maine, according to National Ocean Economics Program data. Nationally, ocean tourism alone provides 12 times the amount of jobs to the U.S. economy as offshore oil production.
“Recreation and tourism are at the heart of Maine’s ocean economy,” says Melissa Gates, Northeast Regional Manager of the Surfrider Foundation. “Not only would drilling and exploration for offshore oil and gas resources devastate the marine ecosystem, but it would also decimate our economy, and our coastal communities. Even a small spill could shut down the state’s beaches, which would have ripple effects. More than 65% of employment in Maine’s ocean economy is in coastal tourism and recreation, which makes up 53% of the state’s ocean GDP. It is the single largest sector of our ocean economy and it feeds our statewide tourism economy too. Allowing oil drilling and exploration of Maine’s coats is a terrible idea in every way, with unacceptable risks.”
Oil drilling would not only threaten Maine’s coastal waters with spills, burning more oil would bring on more climate change threatening the Maine economy and way of life – warmer waters threatening lobsters, higher seas and bigger storms battering the coast, more breathing problems from air pollution, and more insect borne disease like Lyme. Unfortunately, it can be added to a long list of Trump Administration rollbacks, including EPA budget cuts, Pruitt gutting the EPA, and rolling back the Clean Power Plan.
Opponents said the Five-Year OCS Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Plan proposed by BOEM poses too high a risk to Maine’s economy, coastal communities, fishing and tourism industries, beaches, and marine ecosystems.
Ben Martens, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association says: “Fishermen are stewards of the ocean and are working to ensure that we have healthy marine resources so the next generation can continue this proud tradition and way of life. Offshore drilling puts this future in jeopardy by taking away irreplaceable fishing grounds and putting the entire marine ecosystem at risk in the event of a spill. Maine’s coastal communities will reap none of the benefits of offshore oil drilling and instead are simply expected to bear the costs when disaster strikes. This is an unacceptable risk for Maine’s fisheries, seafood harvesters and coastal communities.”
Many also expressed concerns that BOEM’s public meetings are inadequate, especially in light of the serious threat oil drilling would pose to Maine’s coast. Oil spills have the potential to damage entire ecosystems and economies, as demonstrated by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Since 1969, there have been at least 44 large oil spills, of over 10,000 barrels of oil each, in our nation’s marine waterways.
Seismic airgun blasting would precede offshore oil drilling in Maine, a way of mapping where oil deposits are located. The noise from this activity can kill fish eggs, larvae, and marine life, and impair the hearing of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. In addition, seismic blasting has been implicated in whale beaching and stranding incidents.
Becca Boulos, Executive Director, Maine Public Health Association says: “In public health, we practice the precautionary principle in order to prevent unintended, adverse consequences of potentially harmful activities. The principle states that in the case of serious or irreversible threats to the health of humans or the ecosystem, acknowledged scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason to postpone preventive measures. And, the burden of proof of harmlessness is on the proponents of the activity. Off-shore drilling is an example of such an activity in which we should practice this principle. No drilling is free from risk or threat to human, environmental and marine health, and the burden of proof that it is harmless should be on industry, rather than using any degree of uncertainty about the definitive impact on health as a green light for proceeding. The potential risk of harm to Mainers’ health, livelihoods, and way of life is too high.”
Lisa Pohlmann Executive Director Natural Resources Council of Maine says: “The Trump Administration’s plan to sell off our ocean waters to the oil industry poses a major, unacceptable risk to Maine’s coast, residents, economy, and marine life. Now is the time for Maine people to speak up and oppose this short-sighted giveaway to the oil industry, at the expense of our economy and way of life. Offshore drilling would put Maine’s economy and way of life at risk from oil spills and seismic testing. Oil drilling means oil spilling. Offshore drilling won’t benefit Maine, and the risks to our state could be massive and immediate.”
Sean Mahoney, Executive Vice President for the Conservation Law Foundation says: “Oil or gas drilling on Georges Bank has never made any sense, not the first time it was proposed and judicially blocked in 1978 by CLF and not now. The value of New England’s continental shelf for fish and shellfish is too critical to expose to any risk, particular a fossil fuel. Fossil fuel use is already doing irreparable damage to New England’s waters from increased water temperatures and acidity.”
Jacqueline Guyol with Environment Maine says: “Drilling for oil off of Maine’s coast would be devastating for our coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Toxic pollution and oil spills would hurt marine wildlife, and refining and burning oil is detrimental to human health. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill hurt marine ecosystems and threatened coastal communities; we cannot let that happen in Maine. Offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and it doesn’t deliver.”
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca says: Friends of Casco Bay joins Maine’s Congressional delegation in staunch opposition to opening waters off the coast of Maine to offshore drilling. Our mission is to protect and improve the water quality of Casco Bay. Carbon emissions have caused the Gulf of Maine to be stressed and change faster than almost any other ocean waters. We cannot support investing in exploration and drilling for more oil. Extracting oil can directly harm valuable fishing and nursery grounds that form the backbone of our fishing and tourism economies. It also can indirectly harm the Gulf of Maine by continuing our reliance on carbon-based fuels which will further accelerate conditions that already threaten shellfish and stress other marine life.”