Shaheen, Hassan & Coastal New England Senators Introduce Bipartisan Offshore Drilling Ban

May 03, 2019

Bill would protect ocean economy that generates $17 billion annually in the region

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) reintroduced legislation to bar oil and gas drilling off the New England shoreline with a bipartisan group of New England Senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). While the Trump administration has stalled on releasing the next draft of its 5-year offshore leasing plan, it has not fully abandoned efforts to open areas of the Atlantic continental shelf to offshore drilling.  Oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic puts vital coastline at risk, threatening a central economic engine for New England. 

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) also joined to introduce the bill.  Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) has introduced the legislation (H.R. 287) in the House of Representatives with 20 cosponsors.

“New Hampshire’s economy, environment and wildlife can’t afford the risk of an oil spill. Unfortunately, that’s not a concern shared by this administration,” said Senator Shaheen. “While the President is trying to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean – which puts the vitality of the New Hampshire Seacoast community under threat – New England’s congressional delegation will not stay on the sidelines. I’m glad to stand with Senators from our region on both sides of the aisle in defense of the New England coastline. Banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean will help to ensure the safety of our communities and the sustainability of our local economies, and I’ll keep fighting to move this legislation forward to protect New Hampshire’s coast.”

“Coastal drilling has led to some of the worst natural disasters in modern history, and we cannot afford to risk harm to New Hampshire’s coastal communities,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill would ban offshore drilling in New Hampshire and throughout the region, and I’ll continue speaking out to make clear that our coast is off limits to offshore oil and natural gas extraction.”

Just yesterday, the Trump administration rolled back critical drilling safeguards that were established in response to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill – the largest ocean oil spill in American history. When it was first proposed in 2018, Shaheen and Hassan called on then-Interior Secretary Zinke to reconsider this action and warned against the serious safety and environmental hazards risked by rolling back the important protection.

According to the National Ocean Economics Program, the ocean economy, including tourism, fishing, and recreation, generates more than $17 billion in New England annually.  Expanding drilling in the Atlantic would harm New England’s vital industries, and significantly increase the chances of environmental disaster in the region.

While the Trump administration last week indicated that plans to open new coastline to offshore drilling were tentatively sidelined after a recent unfavorable court ruling, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management continues to review applications for permits to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean – a precursor to oil and gas drilling.

Shaheen and Hassan worked with the New England Congressional Delegation to introduce this legislation in the last Congress. Both Shaheen and Hassan have been outspoken critics of the administration’s plans to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The Senators are cosponsors of the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act, a bill introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) that would prohibit seismic geological activities in support of drilling on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Shaheen and Hassan have also called on the Trump administration to hold public hearings before granting such permits because of concern over the effects of seismic tests.