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12 State AGs to Zinke: Terminate Offshore Drilling Plans

In letter to Interior Secretary, AGs say drilling plan threatens jobs and economic prosperity 

February 1, 2018
Contact: stateimpactcenter@nyu.edu

Washington, D.C.— North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein today led a coalition of 12 attorneys general in sending a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to terminate Interior's plan in the Draft Proposed Program to expand offshore drilling.

"You pledged that, under your leadership, the Department of the Interior would be a 'collaborative department' that would 'solve problems rather than create them.' But the Draft Proposed Program fails to live up to those promises," wrote the attorneys general. "Instead, it would create multiple problems for nearly everyone who participates in or benefits from our states’ coastal and maritime economies. At a minimum, three million jobs across America depend on the ocean and coastal economy, which generated more than $350 billion in gross domestic product in 2014 alone. Your proposal threatens these jobs and the economic prosperity of our states. It also endangers the unique ecologies of our shores and state ocean waters."

"State attorneys general refuse to stand by as the Interior Department treats the deadly serious matter of offshore oil and gas drilling as a political exercise, handing out an arbitrary waiver to Florida while ignoring local opposition virtually everywhere else," said David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. "As their top legal officers are confirming today, states up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are unwilling to risk sacrificing their vibrant coastal economies and treasured natural resources for speculative and potentially dangerous offshore oil and gas drilling. When it comes to this issue, every state is Florida and should be treated as such -- no oil drilling."    

In addition to North Carolina, attorneys general from the following states signed the letter to Secretary Zinke: California; Connecticut; Delaware; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; Oregon; Rhode Island; and Virginia.

Attorneys general released the following statements on the letter: 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein:
“Thousands of North Carolinians and 30 coastal communities have voiced their opposition to drilling off North Carolina’s shores. I will do everything I can, including taking legal action, if necessary, to fight on behalf of our people, economy, and natural resources.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:
“Today, we send a clear message to the Trump Administration: drilling off of our shores is a non-starter. Secretary Zinke exempted Florida from offshore drilling, and we demand nothing less than the same treatment – immediately. In California, we have 800 miles of pristine coastline. There should be no doubt that we are prepared to do what is necessary to defend every single one of those 800 miles, including going to court.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh:
“The risks associated with offshore drilling are unacceptable. Environmental disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and around the country serve as stark reminders of the permanent damage due to offshore drilling. We will fight every step of the way to protect the natural habitats, the economy and tourism that are directly tied to our shores and the Chesapeake Bay.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:
“Offshore drilling poses devastating risks to New Yorkers’ lives, jobs, and natural resources. These risks were made painfully clear by disasters like Deepwater Horizon. Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to fight back against the Trump administration’s ongoing assault on our communities and our environment.”

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin:
"Rhode Island, the Eastern seaboard, and all coastal communities benefit greatly from the preservation and protection of our natural resources. Allowing drilling for oil and gas will be detrimental to our economy and our quality of life," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "When the North Cape ran aground in 1996, spilling 828,000 gallons of home heating oil into the Bay, our local fishing and lobstering economy was brought to its knees as 250 square miles of Block Island Sound was closed to fishing. One can only imagine the economic and environmental devastation on Rhode Island if we ever experienced an oil spill the likes of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico that sent 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. We don't need this to compound the significant challenge of global warming."

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring:
"The Commonwealth of Virginia and our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that we are not interested in putting our economy and citizens at risk as part of President Trump's giveaway to oil and gas companies," said Attorney General Herring. "Oil and gas spills could threaten the Chesapeake Bay, tourism, aquaculture, and military operations in Hampton Roads, all industries and assets that are vital to the success of our entire Commonwealth. Moreover, the reasons that Sec. Zinke supposedly exempted Florida from the drilling plan apply equally to Virginia, and yet the Trump administration is still planning to force drilling on us. I can't help but wonder what would be happening if President Trump's golf course was on the Atlantic instead of the Potomac. We are making our objections abundantly clear now, and I will be prepared to take further steps, including legal action if necessary, to protect our coastal communities."

Earlier this week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh led a coalition of six state attorneys general in filing comments opposing the Department of the Interior's proposal to scrap safety measures implemented for offshore oil and gas production in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion off the Gulf Coast. 

ABOUT THE STATE IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.