Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Kristin Jackson. I am an outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 955, which would prohibit offshore oil and natural gas drilling and exploration in Maine’s waters.
The state of Maine has nothing to gain and everything to lose from offshore drilling, which would expose our economy, health, and wildlife to significant new threats of oil pollution and seismic testing. Many of Maine’s largest industries rely on clean and healthy coastal waters. For example, Maine’s coast brings in $4 billion in tourism dollars annually – more than 70 percent of the state’s tourism revenue, and Maine’s lobster industry contributes $1.7 billion to the state’s economy annually. Even a minor spill could cause irreversible damage to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Our fishing industry would also be threatened by offshore seismic exploration associated with drilling, which can disrupt the migratory patterns of fish, whales, and other sea mammals.
Last January more than 250 business owners and four chambers of commerce from up and down the Maine coast joined in signing a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior opposing oil and gas drilling and exploration in Maine waters. The letter and signatories are attached to my testimony. These businesses included real estate firms, outdoor recreation businesses, seafood restaurants, hotels, and many mom-and-pop businesses that rely on tourists who come to Maine to enjoy our beautiful coast. The risks of offshore drilling to these businesses and Maine’s economy are incalculable, and far outweigh any potential benefit.
Drilling off Maine’s coast would increase air pollution, threatening Maine’s already compromised air quality. Polluted air increases asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments like bronchitis. It also increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as cancer and burdens our health care system with substantial medical costs. Between drilling and processing oil, a single rig can generate as much pollution as 7,000 cars driving 50 miles per day. In addition, the drilling process releases thousands of gallons of polluted water containing toxins such as benzene, zinc, arsenic, and radioactive materials.
Offshore oil drilling also threatens wildlife with ocean noise, habitat destruction, and oil spills. The seismic noise used by oil and gas companies to explore for oil offshore can be deafening for whales and other marine mammals, which use sound to navigate, find mates, and find food. The roads, pipelines, and other facilities built to serve oil companies can harm and destroy important habitat. An oil spill can be devastating for wildlife, as oiled birds can lose the ability to fly, regulate body temperature, dive for food, or float on the water, and can ingest and inhale the oil on their bodies, leading to death.
Because of these threats, Maine’s entire Congressional delegation opposes offshore oil and gas drilling, as do thousands of individuals, elected officials, and businesses along the entire Eastern Seaboard. Last Congress, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Maine Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin all co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit oil and gas drilling off the coast of New England, and Senator Collins is planning to reintroduce that bill this Congress with Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island.
In closing, we urge the Committee to protect Maine’s coast and enact the provisions before you today to prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling and seismic testing. Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.