PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s attorney general says he is committed to using “all appropriate legal avenues” if the U.S. Interior Department doesn’t cancel plans to expand offshore drilling off the state’s coastline.
Allowing drilling for oil and gas will hurt “our economy and our quality of life,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said, with detrimental effects to tourism and commercial fishing.
Travel and tourism is a $5.2 billion industry in Rhode Island, supporting more than 41,000 jobs, and it relies heavily on the coastal economy, Kilmartin said.
Commercial and recreational fishing, marine trades and recreational boating are also extremely important, he said. Commercial seafood sales generated about $290 million in 2015 and $105 million in income, for example.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the plan Jan. 4, saying responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines.
Kilmartin joined in a letter sent Thursday by the top lawyers for a dozen coastal states to the Interior Department. The attorneys general, all Democrats, asked for termination of the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling.
That is the first step to stop it, Kilmartin said. If it’s not canceled, Kilmartin said, he will submit formal comments by March 9 detailing the harms the proposed program could inflict on Rhode Island and where the program comes up short legally.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is scheduled to have a hearing on the issue at 3 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Providence Marriott. Kilmartin urged residents to attend to express their concerns.
The new, five-year drilling plan proposes opening nearly all the U.S. coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling. The Trump administration said Florida’s entire coastline would be removed from the plan, after the governor asked for an exemption.
The letter also was signed by attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia.