Delaware Lawmakers Join 200-Plus State Legislators Opposing Offshore Drilling Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the Trump Administration’s announcement of increasing offshore oil and gas drilling, 227 members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) signed a letter to be delivered to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. The signatures represent legislators from 17 coastal states who oppose the draft oil and gas leasing program.

This leasing program seeks to make a majority of the United States Outer Continental Shelf open to oil and gas exploration and construction, representing the first time in decades that many states’ coasts would be exposed to such development and potential harm.

“These state legislators are committed to protecting the coastlines of the United States, said Jeff Mauk, Executive Director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. “They understand the economic and environmental importance of our coasts and are standing together against this proposal.”

Seven Delaware lawmakers – Reps. Paul Baumbach, Debra Heffernan, John Kowalko, Ed Osienski, Bryon Short and Kim Williams, and Senate Majority Whip Nicole Poore – signed the NCEL letter. This follows a letter Democratic members of the Delaware House and Senate Natural Resources Committees and caucus leaderships sent to Secretary Zinke in January opposing DOI’s draft plan to open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves – including along the Mid-Atlantic region – to drilling.

“Despite a population of less than 1 million residents, Delaware welcomes more than 7 million visitors annually to just two of the many beach communities along our coast, and tourism is a $7 billion industry that allows thousands of small businesses to thrive,” the January letter stated. “First State watermen rely on their catches from local waters to feed their families. And several unique animal species, such as horseshoe crabs, red knots and piping plovers, call Delaware’s coastline home.”

The NCEL letter, spearheaded by Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker and California State Senator Kevin De Leon, cites numerous issues that come with offshore drilling. These issues range from the large-scale, irreparable damage caused by oil spills, to the long term damage to coastal economies after these disasters.

“This reckless proposal opens over 90 percent of US shorelines to new oil and gas drilling, putting our economy and marine environment at risk of a catastrophic oil spill," said Sen. Kevin Ranker. “States across the country are standing up together against the Trump administration to protect our communities, our marine and coastal environment and economy.”

Coastal tourism, fisheries, shipping and defense are not only critical economic drivers in some states, but are the underpinning of all U.S. coastal states’ economies. NOAA reports that coastal communities alone provide 45 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product. Furthermore, California, Oregon, and Washington combined represent the fifth largest economy in the world, a level of prosperity that would not be achieved without their ocean-dependent industries. It is clear that U.S. coastlines are a fundamental part of the nation’s economic activity and would be threatened by the offshore drilling plan.

The full text of the letter is available here.