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Public Hearing Set on Ban to Offshore Drilling in Maine

In 2018, Maine passed a resolution against President Donald Trump's offshore drilling plan. (Jack Flanagan/Flickr)
In 2018, Maine passed a resolution against President Donald Trump's offshore drilling plan. (Jack Flanagan/Flickr)
March 29, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine – A public hearing is taking place today about a bill that would ban offshore drilling in Maine.

It's in response to a Trump plan that would open up drilling in federal waters across the United States, including along the Maine coast. LD 955 aims to prohibit offshore oil and natural gas drilling as well as exploration within state waters.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hear the bill, which has House and Senate versions. Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, a bill co-sponsor, says it has been well received so far.

"I know at this point, we have the votes to pass this bill out of committee,” says Chenette. “A lot of the co-sponsors that are on this bill are actually members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, including bipartisan co-sponsors. And so, this bill will be moving forward."

The next steps for the bill would be votes in the Maine House and then the Senate.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills opposes offshore drilling. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, 13 out of the 14 governors on the Atlantic Coast are against offshore drilling.

If the federal plan moves forward, it will be the largest oil and gas lease sale ever. Supporters of offshore drilling argue it's needed for the country's energy independence and that it will create jobs.

But Chenette says even one oil spill could damage tourism and the fishing industry, as well as Maine's natural beauty. Chenette describes another important aspect of this bill.

"Now we can take a deliberate step to prevent oil and gas infrastructure that has any potential of entering state waters or land,” says Chenette.

In other words, if Maine also bans oil and gas infrastructure within state waters, it will make it much more difficult for companies seeking to drill in federal waters, since they wouldn't have an easy way to transport the oil or natural gas.

This year, at least seven other states are considering similar legislation. New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, California, Delaware and Oregon already have offshore drilling bans.

The public hearing starts at 10 a.m. in Room 216 in the Cross Building of the Maine State House.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME