Westbrook, MAINE – Today, Maine’s Democratic candidates for governor joined together to send a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing their opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to open up the coast of Maine for oil and natural gas drilling. While the Democratic candidates are united in their strong opposition to the plan, Maine’s Republican gubernatorial candidates have remained silent on the issue since its announcement.
The letter comes as officials from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy hold “open houses” this week to hear from the public on the proposal. Fishing groups, environmentalists, and tourism advocates plan to make their opposition known during these meetings.
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett released the following statement calling on the Republican gubernatorial candidates to tell the people of Maine where they stand:
“Maine’s maritime industries are under enough strain without having to confront the possibility of oil and gas drilling off our coast. Rather than allow big fossil fuel companies to threaten our environment and our fisheries, the Republican candidates for governor should break with Governor LePage to join with nearly everyone else and oppose this backward plan. Anything else would be reckless for Maine’s environment and for the thousands of Mainers who rely on our coastal waters to make a living.”
Governor LePage in the past has expressed support for the possibility of drilling off the coast of Maine, and he also chaired the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition which supports pursing the expansion of offshore drilling. Maine’s entire Congressional delegation opposes drilling off the coast of Maine.
The letter was signed by Adam Cote, Steve DeAngelis, Mark Dion, Patrick Eisenhart, Mark Eves, Janet Mills, Diane Russell, and Betsy Sweet.
The complete text of the letter is below:
March 6, 2018
The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Department of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
Dear Secretary Zinke:
We are writing, as the Democratic candidates for governor of Maine and as citizens of this state, to express our united opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to open up large portions of U.S. waters – including the entire Atlantic seaboard and coast of Maine – to the exploration and development of oil and natural gas.
As you may know, the health of Maine’s economy is – as it has been for generations – directly and inextricably connected to the vitality of our ocean resources, with hundreds of coastal communities and thousands of Maine families relying on a pristine ocean to help sustain their livelihoods. All one must do is look to Maine’s lobster industry, which generates an average economic impact of nearly $1.7 billion per year for the state, to understand that our ocean and its resources are vital to our economy – not to mention our identity.
Additionally, through the innovative efforts of hardworking Maine people, our state is now at the forefront of a flourishing aquaculture industry, and it should also be noted that our coastal waters are a driving attraction for Maine’s tourism industry, which is the largest contributor of economic activity in the state.
We strongly believe that opening Maine’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling would present an unnecessary threat to these fundamental economic drivers and irresponsibly jeopardize the livelihoods of those Mainers who work in our coastal industries.
That is why Maine’s entire Congressional delegation – two Republicans, an Independent, and a Democrat – have voiced opposition to the proposal, along with every governor up and down the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. However, we understand that Maine’s governor, Republican Paul LePage, has not joined this overwhelming chorus. We interpret his failure to reject the proposal, unlike many of his Republican counterparts, as an endorsement of it, which we believe is wrongheaded and moves Maine backwards.
While we share the governor’s stated goal of lowering Maine’s energy costs and keeping Mainers warm during our state’s frigid winters, we would point out that scientific surveys have indicated that Maine’s coastal waters are not rich in either oil or gas, and rather than drill to confirm that fact, we would prefer instead to pursue investments in renewable energy resources as a way to accomplish those goals – a strategy that Governor LePage does not agree with and has even worked relentlessly against.
In short, we strongly and unequivocally disagree with the Trump Administration’s proposal and consider it a danger to the environmental and economic well-being of our state. We sincerely hope that you will take our concerns into consideration and ultimately revise it in a way that will no longer pose a threat to our state.