PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Newport legislators Rep. Lauren H. Carson and Sen. Dawn Euer recently decried President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to open up nearly all of the United States’ coasts to offshore drilling as a menace to Rhode Island’s environment and economy, and announced their own legislation designed to hinder efforts to drill off Rhode Island’s coast.
“As the Ocean State, Rhode Island has a robust blue sector economy including ship building, fishing, sailing, tourism and more. The state and our institutions have invested incredible resources on forward-thinking coastal policy initiatives. Opening up coastal waters to offshore drilling is short-sighted and puts our economy at great risk,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Middletown).
Said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) said, “Offshore drilling for oil in Rhode Island would inhibit and endanger some of the industries that are part of the bedrock of our economy in Rhode Island, and particularly in Newport.
“It would also erode the progress we’ve made cleaning up Narragansett Bay and developing sustainable, clean energy sources, such as Deepwater Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind farm. This is nothing but a gift to big oil corporations, and we simply cannot let it happen off Rhode Island.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this month the administration’s intent to lift Obama-era protections blocking drilling of about 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, opening up nearly all the United States’ coastline to new oil drilling.
To stymie any effort to drill off Rhode Island’s coasts, Representative Carson and Senator Euer announced their intention to file legislation that would ban the construction of oil terminals, platforms and any other equipment related to oil production onshore in Rhode Island, and also banning oil drilling within the first three nautical miles from the shore, which is under state jurisdiction.
The announcement has been denounced by coastal-state leaders from both parties, including Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation and Gov. Gina Raimondo, who issued a strong statement against it last week.
Save the Bay has also issued a statement calling the initiative “reckless” and recalling the 1989 grounding of World Prodigy on Brenton Reef and the 1996 North Cape oil spill off of Moonstone Beach, two local environmental disasters caused by the oil industry.
The administration announced last week that it would exclude Florida’s coast after its governor, Republican Rick Scott, opposed drilling there. In dismissing Florida from the change, Zinke said he supports Scott’s position “that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”
Senator Euer and Representative Carson say that the Rhode Island is no different than Florida in those regards, and also should not be subject to drilling.