Home » Opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Chief
National Oil and Gas Leasing Program Development and Coordination Branch
Leasing Division, Office of Strategic Resources,
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
45600 Woodland Road
Sterling, VA 20166-9216

February 26, 2018

Re: Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074: Comments opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Dear Ms. Hammerle,

Friends of Casco Bay respectfully submits these comments in opposition to any opening of the Gulf of Maine and New England coastal waters to offshore drilling.

Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization with several thousand members and volunteers who live, work, and recreate on Casco Bay, Maine. Our mission is to improve and protect the environmental health of the Bay. For over 25 years, we have monitored the water quality of Casco Bay and worked with business owners and regulators to find solutions to problems threatening the health of our coastal waters. Of particular relevance to the Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program (DPP), our Casco Baykeeper® sits on the Maine and New Hampshire Area Committee[1] where she works closely with government officials to prevent oil spills and to respond in the event of a spill. This work is relevant because Portland Harbor is a busy port situated in Casco Bay, which receives oil tankers at several terminals and at an oil pipeline. Our harbor has had oil spills in the past and works hard to prevent future spills.

We understand that our country remains dependent, in part, on fossil fuels for the short term, until such time as we can reduce energy consumption and expand use of renewable, cleaner energy sources. Nonetheless, we strongly oppose any opening of the Gulf of Maine to offshore drilling for the reasons set forth below.


As the Northeast Ocean Plan opens:

New England was born of the ocean. The region’s identity and its vitality are inextricably intertwined with the sea. As with its past, New England’s future is equally bound to the fate of the great waters that roll ceaselessly from the northern reaches of the Gulf of Maine to Long Island Sound and the New York Bight far to the south. Sound management of these public resources, and of the regional economy that depends on them, is of paramount importance.” [2]

From its bold rocky outcroppings, sandy beaches, and verdant salt marshes, to its offshore kelp forests, canyons and deep basins, New England’s waters teem with thousands of animal and plant species, comprising one of the most spectacular and productive ecosystems in the world. The region includes many geologically diverse but intricately interdependent areas, including the Gulf of Maine.[3] Because of this significance, New England’s waters have been protected from offshore drilling.

The DPP proposes to repeal that protection and offer 9 leases in the Atlantic, as close as 3 miles offshore. This proposal is meeting with resounding opposition. Regionally, New England’s Senators swiftly and collectively introduced bi-partisan legislation to bar oil and gas drilling off the region’s coast.[4] Congressman Cicilline (D-RI), supported by Congressman Poliquin (R-ME) and Congresswoman Pingree (D-ME),  introduced similar legislation in the House.[5]

“I am opposed to oil drilling off the coast of our state of Maine,” said Republican Congressman Poliquin. “So much of our state’s economy and tens of thousands of Maine jobs along our coast depend on our marine and tourism industries. I am committed to protecting Maine’s unique natural resources.”[6] Congresswoman Pingree vowed to fight the president’s policy: “President Trump’s offshore drilling plan is unprecedented and will face major opposition from Mainers.”[7] Senators Collins and King issued a joint statement: “The waters off Maine’s coast provide a healthy ecosystem for our state’s fisheries and support a vigorous tourism industry, both of which support thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Maine each year.  With our environment so closely tied to the vitality of Maine’s economy, we cannot risk the health of our ocean on a shortsighted proposal that could impact Maine people for generations. We are proud to join our colleagues from New England to underscore the need to protect our waters from offshore drilling.”[8]

At a more local level, Maine’s legislature has taken up an emergency resolve opposing the DPP, and the state’s largest port city, Portland, has passed a resolution opposing the DPP.

Friends of Casco Bay joins the resounding opposition to oil drilling off the Maine coast. In addition to agreeing with the eloquent language from the New England Ocean Plan and the impassioned words of our Congressional delegation, we find the reasoning behind the DPP to be flawed and incomplete. First, the DPP’s stated purpose—to reduce our dependence on imported fuel—is belied by information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which shows that on-shore oil and gas production has greatly reduced our dependence on foreign fuel and led to an increase in US exports of oil and gas. Second, the DPP contains no analysis or consideration of the impacts of climate change. Third, the DPP ignores the Northeast Ocean Plan and the considerable analysis in the 2017–2022 Program, which removed the Atlantic from offshore leasing. Finally, the DPP ignores the tenuous legal underpinning of opening any potential lease sites in locations that President Obama withdrew from consideration pursuant to his authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. § 1341(a).

The DPP’s stated purpose- to reduce our dependence on imported fuel- is belied by information from the EIA

Existing data from the EIA which informed consideration of our nation’s energy needs under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (the 2017-2022 Program) undercuts the stated purpose for the DPP—the need to open almost all of our coast to drilling to secure energy independence.

According to EIA data, over the past decade, the significant increase in oil and natural gas production from shale and tight formations has resulted in a significant decline in U.S. dependence on imported petroleum (EIA 2016a).[9] As a result, both net and gross imports of crude oil have been declining[10] and, beginning in 2011, U.S. exports of refined petroleum products exceeded imports.[11] Moreover, EIA analysis reveals that the actual amount of oil needed to meet the United States’ energy needs will continue to grow only until 2020, and will then stabilize and eventually decline.[12]

Based on this EIA analysis, there is no justification for opening the coast of New England to offshore drilling over the next 50 years. There is simply no need for the oil or gas that could potentially be extracted. The 2017-2022 Program more appropriately contemplates our nation’s energy needs by limiting the amount and location of potential lease sites.

The DPP fails to consider climate change, environmental threats, and social costs

As the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is fully aware, the Gulf of Maine is changing faster than almost any other marine area as a result of carbon emissions. It is warming faster and experiencing ocean acidification, changes in species, more harmful algal blooms, and a myriad of other problems associated with climate change.

The 2017-2022 Program acknowledges that we must consider the impacts of climate change when committing ourselves to continued reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, BOEM found it to be in “the public interest to disclose the potential climate impacts of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing decisions as part of its planning processes.”[13] The Bureau therefore prepared a report which estimates the social and environmental costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions from the Proposed Program and No Sale Option, as well as impacts from current and prior leasing programs. [14] BOEM felt that by completing this analysis, it was taking an important step toward a more complete disclosure to the public of the contribution of BOEM‐permitted OCS oil and gas exploration, development and production activities to national greenhouse gas emissions.[15]

The DPP, despite the overwhelming scientific certainty of climate change, completely fails to contemplate the impacts of climate change. If these factors are taken into consideration, BOEM would have to acknowledge that no drilling should occur in the Gulf of Maine.

The DPP ignores the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Overwhelming Evidence that Excluded the Atlantic from leasing under the 2017-2022 Program

BOEM should refer to the detailed Northeast Ocean Plan and the record of evidence that so recently led it to exclude New England from offshore drilling in the 2017-2022 Plan. On that evidence, BOEM should reverse its decision to consider lease sites off the coast of New England.

The DPP, in part, ignores the tenuous legal underpinning of opening any potential lease sites in locations that President Obama withdrew from consideration

President Obama withdrew 31 major Atlantic canyons that were not already protected by the National Monument from oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development. The canyons run along the Atlantic continental shelf break, from offshore New England to offshore Chesapeake Bay.[16] President Obama made these withdrawals pursuant to his authority under Section 12(a) of the OCSLA. Section 12(a) provides that a President, may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf. Neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes a subsequent President to undo such a withdrawal. Therefore, President Trump’s Executive Order, to the extent it seeks to open these areas to drilling, is unlawful. BOEM must remove the Atlantic canyons from consideration.


For all of the above reasons, Friends of Casco Bay respectfully requests that BOEM remove the Gulf of Maine and the coast of New England from its offshore oil and gas leasing program.


Ivy L. Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay


[1] http://www.maine.gov/dep/spills/emergspillresp/areacommittee.html.

[2] https://neoceanplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Northeast-Ocean-Plan-Chapter-1.pdf at 7.

[3] Id. at 8.

[4] https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/release/-senators-introduce-bipartisan-new-england-offshore-drilling-ban.

[5] https://bangordailynews.com/2018/01/11/politics/pingree-poliquin-join-push-to-prevent-drilling-off-new-england-coast/.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/release/-senators-introduce-bipartisan-new-england-offshore-drilling-ban.

[9]   2017-2022 Program at 6-1.

[10] 2017-2022 Program at 6-2.

[11] 2017-2022 Program at 6-3.

[12] 2017-2022 Program at 6-5.

[13] 2017-2022 Program at 5-23-24.

[14] OCS Oil and Natural Gas: Potential Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions USDOI 2017–2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program BOEM Valuation of Program Areas 5-24 November 2016 and Social Cost of Carbon (BOEM 2016c).

[15] 2017-2022 Program at 5-24.

[16] Fact Sheet: Unique Atlantic Canyons Protected from Oil and Gas Activity

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