Attorneys General Fight Administration's Offshore Drilling Plans

March 9, 2018

Washington, D.C.— A coalition of 12 state attorneys general, led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, filed comments with the Department of the Interior today expressing strong opposition to plans to expand drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico.

In their comments, the attorneys general wrote, “The Secretary of the Interior should defer to our opposition to drilling in areas off our states’ coasts, and should exclude all such areas from any new or revised [Outer Continental Shelf] leasing program. Indeed, failure to do so would be inconsistent with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act…and the Department of Interior’s past practice of not imposing offshore drilling over state opposition.”

“Expanding the scope of oil and gas leasing on the OCS runs directly counter to the imperative to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the shift towards renewable sources of energy. Global temperatures are rising and severe weather events are becoming more frequent, due largely to emissions from human consumption of fossil fuels. The consequences for our planet—including melting glaciers, rising sea levels, famines, and extinctions—are grave and, in many instances, irreversible,” wrote the attorneys general.

“Maryland’s coast and the Chesapeake Bay are among our most precious natural resources,” said Attorney General Frosh. “The dangers that offshore drilling poses to our coastal environment and economy, including the Chesapeake Bay, are simply too great to accept.  Instead of opening these areas to offshore drilling for fossil fuels, we should be focusing our efforts on increasing the development and use of wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.”

“‘Drill, baby, drill?’ Not if state attorneys general have their way. Secretary Zinke can expect a fierce challenge unless he changes course,” said David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “The state attorneys general have filed what could – and might be – the opening brief in a legal action against Secretary’s attempt to reverse course on the Department’s five-year plan, after only one year of its implementation, and over the vehement objections of coastal states. Simply put, Zinke’s proposal, punctuated by his tweeted release of Florida from the plan, is arbitrary and capricious and violates the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.”

LINK: Read Six Attorney General Statements Issued Today on Offshore Drilling

In addition to Maryland, attorneys general from the following states submitted the comments: California; Connecticut; Maine; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Oregon; Rhode Island; Virginia; and Washington.

Attorneys general have also sent state-specific comments to the Department of the Interior:

  • California-specific comments filed by Attorney General Xavier Becerra
  • Massachusetts-specific comments filed by Attorney General Maura Healey
  • New York-specific comments filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
  • Rhode Island-specific comments filed by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin
  • Virginia-specific comments filed by Attorney General Mark Herring
  • Washington-specific comments filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson


State attorneys general have been outspoken in their opposition to offshore drilling. At the end of January, Attorney General 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. The following day, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein led a coalition of 12 attorneys general in sending a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke urging him to terminate Interior’s plan in the Draft Proposed Program to expand offshore drilling.

A new State Energy & Environmental Impact Center report, “State Attorneys General: 13 Months of Critical Actions,” shows that state attorneys general have taken at least 80 actions to advance and defend progressive clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies since January 2017.

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL 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