2018-01-18 / Editorial

Offshore drilling catastrophic for Maine economy

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

The Trump administration, particularly, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, has announced plans to expand future oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Meaning we could start seeing oil drilling platforms off Maine’s coast in the near future.

This would be catastrophic to our state on a number of levels.

As the senator who represents the coastal communities of Old Orchard Beach and Saco, I don’t want our pristine environmental and economic resource threatened because of incompetence and short-sightedness from the White House. Imagine the impact to our lobstering and fishing industry and to tourism, if there was a major oil spill off Maine’s coast.

That’s not even taking into account the long-term health effects on residents and animals.

Luckily, Maine’s bipartisan congressional delegation opposes offshore drilling in Maine and have just recently come together to introduce legislation called the New England Coastal Protection Act. This would prohibit oil and gas extraction activities off New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Gov. Paul LePage, however, supports the Trump administration’s plan to drill off Maine’s coast and help line the pockets of oil executives. Several states have asked for exemptions. Of course, Maine’s governor has not made the same request. Florida is now exempted. We need to get on that list and I worry about congressional inaction.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. I have filed an emergency resolution demanding Congress exempt Maine from possible offshore oil drilling. The resolution would have the state Legislature officially ask Congress to exempt Maine from the new plan. This resolution would have to be pre-approved by the Legislative Council and deemed an “emergency” before being sent to the full House and Senate for a vote. I think it warrants to the level of calling it an emergency bill.

This resolution is nothing new though. The issue of the environment is one that I’ve taken on as a mantle of responsibility. I’ve consistently been endorsed in past elections from the Maine Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, two highly respected environmental advocacy organizations.

In the Legislature, I work hand in hand with these organizations to ensure we are putting our best foot forward as a state, from supporting investments in solar energy tax rebates to voting for a joint order calling on Maine to join the rest of the world in doing its part to fight climate change by joining the Paris Agreement.

Maine’s natural resources are important to preserve, not just for ourselves but for future generations. I’m proud to have earned a clean 100 percent for my voting record on our environment during my first year in the Maine Senate from the Maine Conservation Voters.

In fact, I’ve been named a “Conservation Champion” by the Maine Conservation Voters organization for my steadfast support for Maine’s environment, as well as developing policies that protect public health from toxic chemicals and advance the development and adoption of clean, renewable energy.

As long as I’m in the Legislature, I will continue to fight to protect our lakes and rivers, our clean air, our coastline, and look for ways to diversify our alternative energy portfolio to bring down long term costs on Maine residents.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook/JustinChenette.

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