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Maine Senate Passes Offshore Drilling Ban

In addition to Maine's LD 955, the U.S. Senate also is considering legislation to ban oil and gas drilling off the New England coast. (Dan/Adobe Stock)
In addition to Maine's LD 955, the U.S. Senate also is considering legislation to ban oil and gas drilling off the New England coast. (Dan/Adobe Stock)
June 5, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Senate overwhelmingly passed an offshore-drilling ban on Tuesday by a vote of 31-4. The next step for LD 955 is Gov. Janet Mills' desk.

The legislation would limit oil and gas exploration and drilling within state waters, which also would make it difficult for Trump administration plans to explore the energy prospects in federal waters off the Maine coast.

State Sen. Robert Foley, R-York, a bill co-sponsor, said he isn't surprised by the bipartisan support.

"The resources that the coast of Maine provides to us - both from a tourist industry, from a fishing industry - is something more valuable than any potential oil deposits that may come up," he said, "and the potential of destroying that part of our economy is just not something that we could risk."

Mills is expected to sign the bill, which could happen this week. The ban is a direct challenge to a presidential executive order to open up drilling in federal waters across the United States, although a federal judge halted those plans in March. Supporters of stepping up offshore drilling have argued that it's needed for the country's energy independence and would create jobs.

Foley said there isn't geological evidence of substantial oil deposits off the Maine coast. If there were, Foley said, he still would have supported the ban.

"If they even thought that there was oil up there," he said, "it'd be even more reason for us to have probably have had a stronger bill than what this one has."

There also is legislation in the U.S. Senate to bar oil and gas drilling off the New England shoreline.

The state ban is an automatic disincentive to drill in federal waters. State Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, another bill co-sponsor, said there would be no easy way to transport oil or gas from federal waters, making it more expensive to do so.

"From a federal standpoint, they can open up the waters," he said, "but ultimately, because of this bill, it's going to basically make it cost-inefficiently for any industry to come and drill offshore."

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, 13 of the 14 governors of Atlantic Coast states are opposed to offshore drilling.

The text of LD 955 is online at legiscan.com.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME