by Francis Flisiuk
Portland Phoenix news story
Business, community, and political leaders gathered in the Augusta Civic Center last week to speak out against President Trump’s “Outer Continental Shelf Draft Proposed Oil and Gas Leasing Program,” which would open up the coast of Maine to oil and gas drilling.
About 50 people — including fishermen and representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Surfrider Association, and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association — criticized the offshore-drilling plan, saying it would have terrible effects for Maine’s climate, and the health of Maine’s people, fisheries, coastline, farms, forests, and tourism industry.
“It’s hard to think of a single proposal that runs counter to everything the Maine Lobstermen’s Association stands for, but this BOEM proposal for offshore oil and gas development does just that,” said Kristan Porter, the President of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association during the event. “It could devastate our fisheries, our fishermen and our communities. Even a minor spill could irreparable damage the Gulf of Maine.”
Opponents of the plan met prior to an open house event hosted by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which went over various aspects of the proposal and took place in several cities around the country. Judy Berk, the communications director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, called the BOEM meeting a sham. Berk described its format as a “science-fair style” event that included informational kiosks and one-on-one conversations with attendees, but no chance for vocal opposition to be submitted and recorded.
Tracey Moriarty, the media relations manager for BOEM, said the event was designed to improve public input, and the open house format, according to her, proved to be more effective than formal oral testimony.
“This format provided opportunities for the public to learn about the National OCS Program and have discussions with BOEM staff,” said Moriarty. “Public input is a critical part of our process and we encouraged people to participate by sharing information, asking questions, discussing concerns and ideas with our staff, and submitting comments for the record.”
Public comments on the issue can be submitted online through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s website at www.boem.gov.
When oil spill disasters happen, affected marine birds are unable to float in water and regulate their body temperature, often times resulting in death if they can’t get their feathers cleaned.
Existing offshore drilling is responsible for an estimated 30,000 oil spills a year, and scientists have spoken out saying that Trump’s plan increases the chances for a spill the size of 2010’s disaster, which pumped 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The seismic underwater testing and exploratory drilling that the plan calls for could also seriously displace large populations of marine animals, disrupting their migratory patterns and, in turn, the fishing economy, critics say.
“Oil drilling means oil spilling,” said Lisa Pohlmann, the executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This is a dangerous proposal; the risk to Maine’s coastal economy could be massive and immediate.”
Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, as well as House Representatives Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree, have all expressed opposition to oil drilling off the coast of Maine. The Portland City Council passed a resolution that makes Portland’s offshore area exempt from oil drilling, joining 140 towns along the Atlantic post that passed similar resolutions. According to the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, more than 41,000 businesses also oppose the plan.
Gov. LePage is the only governor on the Atlantic coast who’s in favor of offshore oil and gas drilling, which is consistent with his anti-environmental stances. Last August, he penned a letter to the Department of the Interior’s Ryan Zinke, writing “access to offshore energy resources will allow coastal states and communities to realize great economic opportunities.”