New Jersey and Delaware know full well the dangers of President Trump’s reckless plans to open their coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. Drilling activities endanger life on land and in the Atlantic Ocean. And, an accident would devastate the states’ tourism and fishing industries.
In their battle to protect the shore, both states would be wise to look to California, which is making itself ugly for the oil industry.
California state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is pushing a bill to ban pipelines running from the sea to the shore. States have control of the sea from the coastline to three miles out. Legislators from here should call Jackson for a copy of the bill. Also in California, 18 cities and nine counties have already banned construction of onshore oil terminals and pipelines without a public vote. Towns in New Jersey and Delaware can stop the industry from building infrastructure on the shore with zoning, health, and environmental codes that are designed to protect public safety.
Gov. John Carney, a Democrat who has long been against offshore drilling activities near Delaware, said he invited Zinke to see Delaware’s beaches and marine resources, the main driver for the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
“Delaware simply cannot accept the risks associated with offshore drilling, and we will continue expressing our concerns to the Trump Administration,” Carney said in a statement after his phone call with Zinke.
In a Jan. 11 letter to Zinke, Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn also said the state would consider legal action “if the Department [of Interior] declines to proceed in the manner required by law.”
Denn said the way the recent rewrite of the leasing plan was handled – especially a lack of communication with governors before proposing the plan – suggests a violation of federal law and constitutional due process rights.
In Delaware’s case, a bill, introduced Tuesday by Delaware Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican, would prohibit drilling for oil and natural gas in Delaware’s coastal zone and territorial waters. And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an Eastern Shore native, has asked Interior officials to remove the state from consideration.
Zinke agreed, then ticked off other reasons why Maryland wouldn’t be hospitable for drilling. In addition to the apparent lack of oil resource and local opposition, the state has no oil infrastructure off the coast, he said.
On Monday, President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed opening up nearly all of America’s offshore waters to oil and gas drilling. The industry says it is mainly interested in the the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is now closed off by the Pentagon.
Maryland also holds a trump card, Zinke added. Any oil recovered from offshore would have to be transported through state waters, and the state could “say no” to such deliveries, he said.