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Friday, August 18, 2017

AG HEALEY OPPOSES NEW FEDERAL OFFSHORE LEASE PLAN THAT COULD OPEN UP MASSACHUSETTS COAST TO OIL OR GAS DRILLING

AG HEALEY OPPOSES NEW FEDERAL OFFSHORE LEASE PLAN THAT COULD OPEN UP MASSACHUSETTS COAST TO OIL OR GAS DRILLING
Comments Warn that New Lease Plan Risks Oils Spills That Could Devastate the Massachusetts Fishing Industry and Ravage Coastal Communities

BOSTON— Attorney General Maura Healey has filed public comments with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) opposing the agency’s effort to create a new five-year national offshore oil and gas leasing program that could open up all currently restricted offshore areas to drilling, including Atlantic waters off the Massachusetts coast.

In her comments, AG Healey argues that opening up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas leasing would severely threaten the Massachusetts economy and the state’s coastal environment. AG Healey warns that an oil spill could devastate Massachusetts’ commercial fishing industry – the third largest in the country – and the state’s robust recreation and tourism industries.

“By opening up our coastal areas to drilling, the Trump Administration is prioritizing Big Oil over the interest of Massachusetts’ commercial fishing industry, our economy, and our environment,” said AG Healey. “We will continue to fight back against these reckless moves by the administration that threaten our state’s prosperity and our precious natural resources.”

Citing the catastrophic impacts of Bouchard oil spill in Buzzards Bay in 2003, the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association is also opposing BOEM’s preparation of the new five-year leasing plan.

"The Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association is extremely grateful for Attorney General Maura Healey's commitment and fortitude for the historic commercial fishing industry here in the Commonwealth,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. “There are a multitude of negative impacts to the ocean and the resources the commercial fishing industry depends upon to bring clean and sustainable seafood to Americans. 

Following the issuance of President Trump’s Offshore Energy Strategy Executive Order in April, BOEM issued a request for information and comments on its intent to develop a new five-year plan for oil and gas lease sales in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The current five-year-plan, which was finalized on Jan. 17, 2017, by the Obama Administration, excludes leasing for gas and oil exploration and drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf.

The Massachusetts commercial fishing industry generated $7.3 billion in seafood sales in 2015. The state’s maritime economy employed 90,500 workers, paid $3.9 billion in wages, generated more than $9.8 billion in sales, and contributed $6.4 billion to the gross state product. More than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families along the Atlantic coast oppose offshore oil and gas drilling because of the harm it poses to the coastal ecosystem.

In her comments, AG Healey also contends that the massive and long-lasting economic harm to Gulf coast state economies caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 reveals the potential disastrous scale of lost jobs, wages, and tax revenue that could result from the effects of an oil spill on commercial fishing in Massachusetts.

An oil spill along the state’s 1,519 miles of tidal coastline - marked by destination beaches in areas like Cape Cod, Cape Ann and Plum Island - could destroy Massachusetts’ tourism and recreation industry. Opening up the currently restricted offshore areas in the Atlantic to drilling will also harm the state’s coastal environment and protected endangered species, including the Northern Right Whale, which feeds in the waters off of the Cape and Nantucket, according to the comment letter. There are only about 500 critically endangered Northern Right Whales remaining worldwide.

AG Healey also notes in her letter that expanded offshore oil and gas drilling is not needed to meet the country’s future energy needs and doing so would increase harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of her office’s longstanding efforts to protect the coastal ecosystem, AG Healey joined seven other attorneys general last month in submittingcomments opposing the National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposal to conduct seismic testing for oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic.

By sending her comments this week, AG Healey is urging BOEM to discontinue its effort to create a new five-year plan and maintain the current restrictions on leasing in all offshore areas of the Atlantic Ocean.