The U.S. Department of the Interior released a proposal last Thursday for oil and gas leasing in federal waters along the continental shelf. The Bureau of Ocean Energy management is working to develop a new Outer Continental Shelf program that, if approved, will supersede the currently approved 2017-2022 program.
Two oil and gas leases are proposed for the North Atlantic. There have been no lease sales here since 1973. There are no existing oil and gas leases, but there are eight renewable energy leases.
“Between 1976-1984, 43 exploratory wells were drilled in the currently configured [North Atlantic] planning area with no commercial discoveries,” the proposal says.
Interior’s announcement pointed to letters signed by 155 members of Congress last year urging more offshore leasing. But our own two senators logged their opposition Monday to “any effort to open waters off the coast of Maine or any proximate area, which could negatively affect the health of Maine’s fisheries and other coastal resources.”
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the outer continental shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a press release. “Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American energy dominance.”
That last goal will raise lots of eyebrows on Mount Desert Island, where a drive for local energy independence does not include any local fossil fuel exploration.
We agree with Collins and King that the potential costs of oil exploration in the Gulf of Maine far outweigh the potential benefit of the proposed leases, which could be disruptive, but not productive in terms of oil extraction.
We also urge Mainers to weigh in during the public comment period on the proposal, which closes March 9. Comments may be made online at regulations.gov.