Drilling off Maine’s coast? Not worth the risk

In life, there are some risks worth taking. With summer fast approaching, Maine people are going to start taking those risks – for example, we’ll take the risk of planning a trip to Old Orchard Beach on an August Saturday, hoping for an easy place to park, or risk some early morning shivers to catch the day’s first rays of sun from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia. We make these decisions, and take these risks, because we want to make the most of what our state has to offer. What we won’t stand for are unnecessary risks – ones that put our way of life at risk.

In recent months, there has been discussion of one potential risk that could threaten communities across our state: the possibility of drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Maine. This conversation began following a proposal from the Department of the Interior to open up nearly all of the U.S. coastline to offshore drilling – including the Gulf of Maine. This would be, quite simply, a disastrous decision.

As a state with more than 3,000 miles of coastline, our waters represent a significant part of our identity, and residents of Maine rely on them for their livelihood, as two of our state’s largest and most iconic industries – tourism and lobstering – rely on the health of the ocean and our coastline. So, as we do with all risks, we must measure the potential gain against the potential consequences – and in this case the harm far outweighs any benefits our state would receive. Even a minor oil spill could cause severe damage; we won’t see tourists flocking to oil-slicked beaches, or lobstermen fishing for petroleum-covered lobsters, so why would we risk that outcome?  These are billion-dollar industries, and cornerstones of Maine life – there’s simply nothing that can be gained that is worth the risk of harming these sectors of our economy.

That’s why, since this potential plan was announced, I’ve joined the rest of the Maine Congressional delegation in loudly opposing any offshore drilling off the coast of Maine. In January, Senator Collins and I sent a letter to Secretary Zinke expressing our opposition to his proposal, and later that month we co-sponsored the New England Coastal Protection Act with our New England colleagues in the Senate. The response has also been swift from the Maine Legislature, as both chambers of the Legislature unanimously (I repeat – unanimously!) passed a resolution requesting that the Administration leave Maine out of any potential drilling plan.

The opposition to this plan has been strong, it has been bipartisan, and it hasn’t limited itself to politicians. My office has heard from thousands of Maine people who are concerned with what this plan could do to our state, and I know that the Department of the Interior has heard from them too. Last month, many Maine residents drove through one of this winter’s numerous snowstorms to attend a Public Meeting on the subject, held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at the Augusta Civic Center. I was working in Washington during the event, but members of my staff attended and reported back. When I asked my staffers about the response, I mentioned offhand that I thought 95% of the speakers would be opposed. “No,” they told me. “It was 100% opposed.”

There are few topics that could unify the state across political parties like this one – but that’s because it’s rare that we see proposals that threaten so many pieces of Maine life so seriously. We can, and should, pursue energy solutions to help decrease costs across the state, but we must not sacrifice the health of our ocean and our economy in the process. Put simply? This idea is not worth the risk.

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