Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent, added that such drilling for oil and gas could drastically hurt Maine’s economy.
“Maine’s economic stability — and countless Mainers’ livelihoods — has always depended on the health of the ocean. The Maine lobster industry, for example, has an estimated $1.7 billion impact to the state’s economy annually, not to mention the many other fishing, aquaculture, and coastal tourism industries in Maine that help to support the economy,” the lawmakers said.
“These critical industries are dependent on Maine’s pristine waters, and even a minor spill could damage irreparably the ecosystem in the Gulf of Maine, including the lobster larvae and adult lobster populations therein.”
“Further, offshore seismic testing exploration has been shown in some cases to disrupt migratory patterns of fish and sea mammals. In other words, we believe the potential harm posed by oil and gas exploration and development off Maine’s shores far outweighs any potential benefit.”
A proposed plan by the Interior Department includes two auctions for offshore drilling leases in the North Atlantic region, which stretches from New Jersey to Maine. One auction is slated for 2021, and the second for 2023.
The senators’ stance appears to put them in opposition with Gov. Paul LePage, who supports the Interior Department’s proposal to examine offshore energy opportunities.
But LePage also expects “significant regions will be excluded from the final plan,” The Portland Press Herald reports.
Collins and King sent their letter to Zinke on Monday, days after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management called for the potential reopening more than 90 percent of the U.S. coastline to natural energy exploration.
At present, about 94 percent of America’s coasts are off-limits to drilling, The Press Herald said.