On the floor of the House of Representatives today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) went on the offensive against the Trump Administration’s plan to open most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling, arguing that Maine has everything to lose and nothing to gain from the proposal.
Two weeks ago, the Trump Administration introduced a plan to undo a decades-old ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in the United States, including in the Gulf of Maine. Since then, Pingree has vowed to fight this outrageous proposal and has cosponsored the New England Coastline Protection Act, introduced by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), which would prohibit oil and gas exploration off of the coast of New England, from Maine to Connecticut. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate and every Senator and Representative from New England coastal states have signed on as cosponsors.
Pingree has called Interior Secretary Zinke’s decision to remove Florida from the drilling proposal simply because of its “pristine” coastline "political favoritism at its worst."
A public forum on the Trump Administration’s plan is scheduled for Monday, January 22, at the Augusta Civic Center. Pingree plans to attend the open forum.
Text of Pingree’s speech as drafted.
I rise today to voice my strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to lift a decades-old ban on offshore oil and gas drilling on our country’s Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
This proposal has to be one of the most irresponsible actions of the Trump Administration. Currently, 94 percent of the outer continental shelf is off limits to drilling. And rightly so, given the importance of protecting the economic and cultural value of the country’s coastlines.
The Trump Administration has offered a staggering reversal, proposing to open up over 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling. While Governors and lawmakers from both parties have risen to voice their opposition to this plan, this Administration is moving forward at breakneck speed. It has given a mere 60 days for the public to comment. In my home state of Maine—which has much to lose from this plan—we don’t even get a full public hearing.
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. Everyone can see that this was less about protecting Florida’s pristine beaches and coastline, as Governor Scott said, than a political favor from President Trump.
I absolutely have nothing against the Florida coast. But your state shouldn’t have to be home to Mar-a-Lago to earn an exemption from this awful plan. All coastal states deserve this protection.
My home state of Maine is one of them. If you measured every inch of our state’s jagged coastline and islands it would measure an incredible 3,500 miles. Those miles include some of the most beautiful places in the world and critical habitat for hundreds of species of fish and wildlife.
That coast is also dotted with dozens of small towns filled with hard-working people who depend on a beautiful, healthy ocean to make their living.
Two of my state’s largest industries are tourism and fishing. Tourism in Maine is a $5.6 billion industry—71% of which comes directly from Maine’s coast. Millions of people visit our state to experience our beautiful coastline, snug harbors, and stunning landmarks like Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde here (pointing to picture). Those tourists come to look out over miles of peaceful water—not oil rigs.
Our fishing industry and the businesses that support it have even more to lose from this proposal. 30,000 Mainers make their living in marine industries. They include boat builders, ground fishermen, clammers, seaweed harvesters, oyster and mussel farmers, and of course lobstermen.
Our world-famous lobster fishery alone brings in $500 million annually. I recently met with a group of lobster fishermen who told me the difficulties their industry faces. They want to pass their businesses on to their sons and daughters, but worry about the future. Will the Gulf of Maine—which is warming faster than 99% of the world’s ocean waters—remain prime habitat for lobster? Will ocean acidification harm the lobster population in ways we don’t know yet?
Do we really need to add a potential oil spill to the list of things already keep them up at night?
In Maine we know the risk because we’ve seen the consequences. In 1996, a tanker named the Julie N spilled about 200,000 gallons of heating oil in Maine’s Casco Bay. It cost over $40 million to clean up and caused lobster prices to plummet.
But 200 thousand gallons of spilled oil is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to Deepwater Horizon—which spilled 200 million gallons in the Gulf of Mexico. The result on the marine environment was devastating. Shrimp, crab, oyster, and other fisheries in those states may never fully recover.
The risks of this proposal to my state and others are simply too great. And for what? Our nation is already the top producer of oil and gas in the world. And with fuel prices currently low, this proposal would not boost the economy. If this Administration is really worried about remaining internationally competitive in the energy market, it should throw its support behind developing alternative energy sources instead of abandoning them.
This proposal is unacceptable and irresponsible. I will continue to fight back against the environmental harm it threatens for Maine and the nation. I am proud to cosponsor legislation with my colleagues in New England to prohibit drilling off our states, and another bill to keep the drilling ban in place entirely along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. I encourage all my colleagues to do the same and stop this terrible plan before it is too late.
I yield back.