Lawmaker looks to ban offshore drilling [Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.]

Jan. 09–Opposition in Massachusetts to the Trump administration’s plans to allow oil and gas exploration along the Atlantic seaboard appears to be coalescing, as stakeholders and the segments of the public sector are moving to block expanded exploration off the coasts of Northeast states.

In the Massachusetts Legislature, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D- Falmouth, said on Tuesday he plans to file legislation prohibiting all exploratory offshore drilling or drilling infrastructure in Massachusetts waters or on state land in perpetuity.

“In my bill, there is no sunset clause,” Fernandes said Tuesday after completing a conference call with state legislators from other Northeast and mid-Atlantic coastal states that have allied to regionally oppose the type of seismic exploration the Trump administration has permitted in waters off mid-Atlantic and southern states. “We want to make it cost-prohibitive for offshore drilling companies to explore for oil and natural gas, especially in New England.

Fernandes said state legislators from New York, Delaware, Maryland and all six New England states reported during the conference call that their states already have legislation banning exploratory drilling in their waters or are in the process of drafting similar bills.

“Every New England state has an initiative, which is essential for protecting our region,” Fernandes said. “This irresponsible and reckless policy will have a disastrous impact on our fishing communities, like Gloucester, as well as the huge tourism industry that my district on Cape Cod and communities on the North Shore are dependent on.”

The marshaling of regional legislative forces is running along a parallel track with the attorneys general of nine states — including Massachusetts — who have sued the Trump administration in U.S. District Court to ban the seismic testing because of the danger it poses for all manner of marine wildlife, as well as the negative implications it presents for for the fishing industry and tourism.

Public meeting on Trump plans

On Thursday night, the New England Aquarium is hosting a public meeting and panel discussion on the Trump administration plans and what is at stake for Massachusetts and other coastal states.

The meeting, which is free, will include a panel discussion featuring Beth Casoni, the executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association; Scott Kraus, chief scientist at the aquarium’s Cabot Center for Ocean Life; and Chris Adams, chief of staff for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

The panel discussion will be followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Vikki Spruill, the aquarium’s president and chief executive officer.

The meeting is set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the aquarium’s Simons IMAX Theater. While free, reservations are recommended and can made on the aquarium’s website, https://bit.ly/2RdHw2x. In case of inclement weather, the event will be shifted to Jan. 14.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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