RI Attorney General: Offshore Drilling Puts Coastal Economies At Risk

Feb 2, 2018

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is urging the U.S. Interior Department to terminate a plan that would allow oil and gas drilling off the coast.

The proposal for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which would be in effect from 2019-2024, would open up more than 90 percent of coastal waters for business.

The plan includes 47 potential lease sales, two of which are in the North Atlantic. There have been no sales in the Atlantic Ocean since 1983 and there are no existing leases, according to the U.S. Interior Department. 

Kilmartin signed a letter along with 11 other attorneys general from coastal states that was sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday.

The letter notes the risk of oil spills could put coastal economies at risk, regardless of state borders. The attorneys general point to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which according to a study, caused $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources alone.

Kilmartin wrote in the letter travel and tourism in Rhode Island is a $5.2 billion dollar industry that supports more than 41,000 jobs and relies heavily on the state's coastal economy.

Kilmartin added commercial and recreational fishing in the state each generate hundreds of millions of dollars and support thousands of jobs. 

Zinke previously announced that Florida was exempt from the plan. However, Trump administration officials have claimed his announcement is not a formal decision, according to The Hill.  

The attorneys general plan to submit formal comments in March about the harm offshore drilling could cause if the Interior Department's proposal is not terminated.

In addition to Kilmartin, Gov. Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s U.S. senators and other state lawmakers have spoken out against the plan.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be holding a public meeting in Providence to share information about the proposal and accept written comment about how expanding offshore could impact the environment. The meeting is scheduled for February 28 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Marriott Providence Downtown.