Attorney General Brian Frosh Monday became the latest Maryland official to oppose federal plans to open up the Atlantic Region’s Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.
In written comments submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Frosh said that Maryland’s natural resources would be degraded in what he called an unnecessary and unwise process of exploring for oil and gas.
“The idea of allowing oil exploration along the Atlantic Coast is beyond foolish,” Frosh said. “Half of the water in the Chesapeake Bay comes from the Atlantic Ocean. Beaches like the Assateague Island National Seashore are some of the most unspoiled in the nation. We would be jeopardizing the very assets we are working so hard to preserve.”
In January the Obama administration announced a proposal that would allow leasing of areas offshore of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia as part of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. The proposal is open for public comment for roughly another month.
Maryland’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Democrats Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, joined 10 other senators from Northeast states in denouncing the plan as too risky. Their comments were mirrored Monday by Frosh, who said that each stage of gas exploration carries needless dangers, from testing and drilling to the damage done during extraction and transport of the fuels to the inevitable spills that occur.
At risk would be the $4 billion mid-Atlantic fisheries and $1 billion in tourism spending in Ocean City and Worcester County.
“There is just no way to eliminate the risks of spills and blowouts,” Frosh said. “The cumulative effect of small leaks can be as damaging as huge disasters such as the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. Maryland’s tourism economy, fishing economy and natural resources would all be at risk if this unnecessary plan moves forward.”
The Obama administration’s draft plan envisions an oil lease that would include rigs starting as close as 50 miles offshore along the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Virginia’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, have expressed support for the Obama administration’s plan, saying that it would “result in the safe, responsible development of energy resources off the Virginia and mid-Atlantic coasts.”