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VIDEO: Pingree Pushes Amendment to Block Funding for Trump Offshore Drilling Plan

During Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) offered and spoke on an amendment to prohibit funds from being used to implement the Trump Administration’s proposal to open up vast new areas of the East and West coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling leases. The amendment failed along largely party lines. 

Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, has been a vocal opponent of the Administration’s proposal to open the East and West Coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. She is a cosponsor of the New England Coastline Protection Act, which would prohibit oil and gas exploration off of the coast of New England, from Maine to Connecticut.  She questioned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on the plan at an Appropriations hearing in April after joining subcommittee colleagues on a letter to him that called the plan "one of the most outrageous and irresponsible proposals to come out of President Trump’s Administration." 

Pingree’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

My amendment would prohibit the use of funds in the bill for the implementation of the Offshore Continental Shelf Drilling proposals that the Administration proposed in January of this year.

Earlier this year, I sent a letter, along with all of my fellow Democratic members of this subcommittee, to Secretary Zinke with our view that the drilling proposal is “one of the most outrageous and irresponsible proposals to come out of President Trump’s Administration.”  

Although the letter has yet to be responded to, my feelings about this have not changed and neither have the facts.

Thousands of people in the state of Maine depend on a beautiful, healthy ocean to make a living—which would all be jeopardized by an oil spill.

Mainers have serious concerns with this offshore drilling proposal and its inadequate public process.

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. 

This draft plan would open up over 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling.  From Maine to Connecticut as well as up and down the coasts of the mid-Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific and Alaska, drilling would be on the table.

Maybe this is why there has been such widespread opposition.

I have here some copies of letters from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have been opposed to this proposal.

In fact, many of my Republican colleagues in this very Committee have sent similar letters to the Administration requesting their coastlines be removed from the five-year plan. I have here various letters signed by Chairman Frelinghuysen, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, Congressman Diaz Balart, Rooney, Rutherford, Harris and Taylor all opposing offshore drilling activities in one region or another.   I agree with them.

My home state of Maine is one of the States that wants out of this plan. 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.

But this is about economics as well.  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. 

We have a good banter in this Committee about which one of us has the honor to have the best seafood—is it gulf coast shrimp or Chesapeake Bay crabs? All the while knowing the true answer is Maine lobster.

My colleagues, all of these fisheries, all of the men and women who harvest or fish them, all the coastal communities who lives depend on them, are at risk with this OCS proposal.  Nationwide, fishing, recreation and tourism generate $180 billion in GDP, and support over 2.6 million jobs, annually. And by the way, it is a proposal that they do not want.

Our state, and other states have shown our opposition. Nearly every coastal Governor is opposed to this plan, Democrats and Republicans alike. 

For those on the other side of the aisle that have advocated for the importance of states’ rights (in most circumstances) it is a shocking turn of events to hear this Administration going around Governors, or Legislatures, or local communities to suggest opening up these areas to drilling. 

Opposition or concern about this offshore drilling proposal stretches from the Department of Defense, Air Force, and NASA, to Governors and more than 250 East Coast and Pacific Coast municipalities.  There is bipartisan opposition from more than 1,700 local, state and federal elected officials; an alliance representing over 42,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Florida to Maine; and also from the Pacific Northwest, New England, Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic fishery management councils.

I urge everyone in this room, whether you represent a coastal community or not, to stand with the men and women who make their lives on the water and are opposed to the OCS proposal.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

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