RI Gov. Raimondo Says 'Not On Our Watch' To Federal Offshore Drilling Expansion

Jan 17, 2018

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has joined opposition to President Donald Trump’s plan to drill for oil and gas offshore in protected federal areas of New England waters. 

Under the current plan, the vast majority of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans are off limits.

Trump’s draft for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program would open up more than 90 percent of coastal waters across the country to offshore drilling – the largest expansion in U.S. history. The program would be in effect from 2019-2024. 

"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," Ryan Zinke, secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, said in a statement two weeks ago.

However, most Rhode Island officials don’t agree.

"When President Trump announced a plan to open our coastline to drill for oil, we, the people of Rhode Island, stood up and said, 'Not on our watch,'" Raimondo said during her State of the State address Tuesday night. 

Raimondo previously released a statement against Trump's proposed plan. 

"The President is endangering the health of nearly all coastal waters in our country, including our 400 miles of coastline in Rhode Island, so that rich oil companies can get richer," she said in a statement. "(Rhode Island has) taken action over the past few years to decrease our resilience on fossil fuels and invest in alternative energy sources. We are home to the nation's first offshore wind farm. We cannot take this step backwards." 

Raimondo also recently spoke over the phone with Zinke about removing Rhode Island from the drilling program, according to The Hill

In addition to Raimondo, Rhode Island's Democratic U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have spoken out against Trump's proposal, signing a letter last week asking the Trump Administration to exempt Rhode Island from any offshore oil or gas leases. 

Other state lawmakers have also come out in opposition and plan to introduce legislation that would ban offshore drilling in state waters.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold a public meeting on Trump’s plan next Thursday at the Marriott Providence Downtown from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.

The Draft Proposed Plan for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program includes 47 potential lease sales, two of which are for 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.