PORTLAND, Maine – A group of nine Democratic state lawmakers from different coastal states announced Tuesday that they are going to use their coming legislative sessions to try to block attempts at offshore drilling.
The lawmakers’ announcement came as new and re-elected legislators were entering office around the country after an election that saw high turnover in some states, and the group said it wants to take advantage of new political dynamics that could favour environmental bills. The announcement also came about a year after Trump’s administration announced plans to expand drilling.
The lawmakers, who are affiliated with non-profit advocacy group National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, said their bills will seek to limit the possibility of drilling off their coasts. State legislatures are limited in what they can do to stop drilling beyond state waters, but the lawmakers said they’re showing a united stand against the practice.
“We need to pass permanent legislation in our states so that this ban would be in place for the future,” New Hampshire Sen. Martha Fuller Clark said. “We can’t afford to rely on Washington to protect us.”
Others lawmakers involved in the effort represent Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island. Some of the lawmakers said they would seek outright bans on drilling, while others said they would look to pass bills that restrict it or do more to hold companies liable for spills.
The proposals will likely encounter resistance from the oil and gas industry. The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, released a statement in response that said: “Closing the door on offshore development could hurt local economies, as well as America’s energy security, and is a step in the wrong direction.”
The practical impact of some of the bills could be that they make it more difficult for companies that seek to drill to access offshore sites via state waters, members of the group said.
Several states have already taken action to ban offshore drilling in state waters. New Jersey passed one of the strongest laws on the subject last year. Lawmakers in coastal states are acting on the subject because of potential harms to critical industries such as tourism and commercial fishing, said Oregon Sen. Arnie Roblan.
They lawmakers also said their respective states must do more to encourage renewable energy rather than fossil fuel extraction. Rep. Park Cannon of Georgia said she expected a fight against defenders of “archaic energy practices” in her state.
“It’s time to transition away from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said Hawaii Sen. Mike Gabbard, who said he’d introduce a ban on oil drilling off Hawaii when the session starts next week.