PROVIDENCE, RI - Looking out onto Narragansett Bay, Governor Gina M. Raimondo was today joined by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin and Congressman David Cicilline as they reaffirmed their opposition to the Trump administration's proposal to open coastal waters for offshore oil drilling. Offshore drilling would dangerously threaten the Ocean State's 400 miles of coastline and sensitive marine ecosystems and could have lasting environmental and economic repercussions.
"Here in Rhode Island, we know that the future is offshore wind power, not offshore oil drilling," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "This proposal threatens our coasts, our ecosystems and multiple sectors of our economy. Since I've been Governor, we've set ambitious goals to make our energy and our economy more green. We're home to the nation's first and only offshore wind farm, and we're on track to hit our goal of 20,000 green jobs by 2020. We can't let the Trump administration put that significant progress at risk. I urge Rhode Islanders to voice their concerns about this proposal at the upcoming BOEM meeting."
Secretary Zinke's proposal comes less than a decade after the biggest oil spill in United States history. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill resulted in the deaths of 11 workers, the leakage of 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and the contamination of over 1,000 miles of shoreline. Offshore drilling in or near Rhode Island's waters would pose similarly grave risks. On January 12, Governor Raimondo called Secretary Zinke to voice her concerns and request an exemption similar to the one given to Florida Governor Rick Scott. To date, none has been given.
"President Trump's plan to allow drilling off the shores of New England threatens the jobs of hardworking fishermen who carve out a living on Narragansett Bay and those of everyone who works near the coast," said Senator Whitehouse, who, along with Congressman Cicilline, sponsored the bipartisan New England Coastal Protection Act to bar drilling off the coast of New England. "We remember all too well the economic and environmental destruction caused by the North Cape oil spill, and the World Prodigy accident before that. Rhode Island's congressional delegation and state leaders will stand together to stop President Trump from expanding profits for big oil and gas corporations at the risk of the decades of progress we've made cleaning up the Bay, investing in our ports, and leading on offshore wind energy."
Rhode Island's regional marine ecosystem is one of the most productive and sensitive in the world, and is home to a variety of important and diverse species--from squid and scallops to lobsters and fluke. Oil and gas development would come with huge environmental risks, particularly in regards to productive fisheries and sensitive coastal and offshore habitats. For already endangered species, the effects of offshore drilling could be devastating.
"President Trump's reckless plan to allow drilling off the coast of New England will place Rhode Island's coastal resources and economy at risk," said Congressman Langevin. "As the Ocean State, we rely on our waters for tourism, commercial fishing and clean energy production, all of which could be irreparably harmed from a single oil spill. We must continue to make our voices heard and fight against this dangerous proposal to ensure the continued health and safety of our marine ecosystems and coastal communities."
Drilling in or near Rhode Island's coastal waters could also have hugely adverse affects on fishing industries, which are a critical component of the state's economy. Regionally, commercial fishing supports nearly 100,000 jobs. Governor Raimondo has invested in Rhode Island's fishing industries, directing the Department of Labor and Training to create a Real Jobs Rhode Island job training program specifically for commercial fishing and promoting the construction of new fishing access points across the state. This proposal could pose operational difficulties for Rhode Island fisheries throughout Rhode Island and make it increasingly difficult for businesses to harvest squid, lobster, sea scallops, quahogs and other types of seafood.
"Rhode Islanders don't want oil and gas drilling off our coast. We are united in our opposition to President Trump's reckless executive order," said Congressman Cicilline, who authored the bipartisan New England Coastal Protection Act to reverse the President's executive order and prevent drilling off the coast of all New England states, including Rhode Island. "Our natural resources are critical to the health of our state's economy and our quality of life. We are going to do everything we can to protect our coastline from drilling by big oil companies."
It's not just Rhode Island's fishing industries that could be hurt by offshore drilling. This proposal threatens the Ocean State's 400 miles of picture perfect shoreline and more than 100 beaches--in effect, it threatens the state's entire tourism industry. Today, travel and tourism is a nearly $5 billion industry in Rhode Island that supports around 40,000 jobs. Rhode Island simply cannot afford the risks of offshore drilling.
"Simply put, the Trump administration's plan to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling is bad for Rhode Island. We cannot afford to take this huge step backwards," said Janet Coit, Director of the Department of Environmental Management. "From our commercial and recreational fishermen who depend on marine habitats, to our coastal communities and tourists who enjoy our clean waters and beautiful beaches, our Ocean State has nothing to gain and everything to lose when it comes to the risks associated with off-shore drilling."
Rhode Islanders are encouraged to voice their concerns at the upcoming Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public meeting in Providence on February 28. Details can be found at the site linked below.