Shaheen, Hassan Call for Acting Interior Head to Come Clean on Offshore Drilling

March 21, 2019

**Shaheen & Hassan Join Group of Senators to demand answers BEFORE critical nomination hearing**

(Washington, DC) – Citing bipartisan concerns about the Trump administration’s push to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of Senators yesterday led by Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to demand answers from the current acting head of the Department of Interior prior to his upcoming confirmation hearing to permanently replace former Secretary Ryan Zinke. 

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) is expected to announce in the coming weeks the next draft of its five-year National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program for 2019-2024. 

“[W]e strongly urge you to indicate which States will or will not be included in the next draft of the five-year plan prior to your nomination hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” the Senators wrote to Acting Secretary David Bernhardt.  “The American people deserve to know your plan for the Outer Continental Shelf before the Senate votes on your nomination.” 

The Senators noted bipartisan requests to remove the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Gulf of Mexico from the next draft of the five-year plan, as well as expressed concerns from coastal communities, local businesses, commercial and recreational fishing interests, and elected officials at all levels of government. 

The lawmakers demanded answers from Bernhardt to a series of questions from whether he supports the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling and the Department’s efforts to address the risks of climate change, to steps taken to prevent a spill and committing to hold public hearings and meet with any coastal governor of any state that could be impacted by an oil spill. 

“The American public and their elected representatives in Congress deserve to understand your vision for the OCS before we consider your nomination to serve as Secretary of the Interior,” the letter continued. 

In January 2018, the Trump administration announced the largest planned expansion of offshore drilling in decades in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, including in areas previously blocked off the Jersey Shore and throughout the Atlantic from Florida to Maine. 

Shaheen and Hassan have repeatedly spoken out against the President’s efforts to move forward with steps on offshore Atlantic drilling. In 2017, the Senators called on the President to hold public hearings before granting permits to drill in the Atlantic Ocean due to concerns over the effects of seismic tests. Just last week, the Senators reintroduced legislation to ban seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean

Full text of the letter can be downloaded here