Cape Rep. Proposes Limiting Oil and Gas Drilling off Massachusetts Coast

Jan 11, 2019

Credit Jennifer A. Dlouhy / Houston Chronicle https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Lawmakers from Massachusetts and seven other states announced they would be filing legislation this month to ban offshore drilling for gas and oil off their coastlines. The bills are in response to President Donald Trump's announcement he would allow offshore drilling along the Eastern Seaboard.

Cape State Representative Dylan Fernandez (D-Woods Hole) filed a bill to ban drilling off the coast of Massachussetts.  WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with him to learn more about what the bill entails, and how he worked with other states to come up with the language. 

Eident: Can you talk first about some of your concerns with the idea of offshore drilling for products like oil and gas?

Fernandes: We have a half-billion-dollar fishing industry here, we have the most productive fishing port in America in New Bedford, we have the tourism industry that supports over a hundred thousand jobs. So, not only is this bad environmental policy, it could be disastrous for our entire region and potentially our entire state's economy. And so, I do everything I can to stop this. And also, we have opposition to offshore drilling from our Republican governor, and our Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey. So, this is a piece of legislation we think is going to have really kind of broad bipartisan support.

Eident: Explain the strategy behind how you might prevent offshore drilling from happening, because state boundaries off the coast only go out three miles; that's not very far.

Fernandes: That's a really great question. Of course, you know if Massachusetts only just banned offshore drilling in its state waters, and offshore infrastructure on its state lands, that wouldn't be very meaningful. And so, it was about convening legislators from across the eastern seaboard and across the country; legislators all the way from Hawaii, across the West Coast and the East Coast came together. And now it's at the same time that we are all jointly filing legislation in our respective states that ban offshore oil and gas exploration in our state waters. And also in some cases, at least in the case of myself, I ban any stored on-land infrastructure that supports offshore drilling and exploration in state waters as well. The intent of this, and why we all kind of came together as a group and filed this together, is to really set up a blockade on the eastern seaboard against the top administration reckless policies is opening up our coastal areas the drilling.

Eident: Does that mean that neighboring states are on board with this, and that they filed similar legislation?

Fernandes: Yes, in the next couple weeks we're going to see a bill filed in every state across the East Coast; I think the only exception is North Carolina, and I hope that changes. Some states actually have already taken action and have already passed laws restricting offshore drilling.

Eident There has been a lot of talk, especially here on the Cape, about the blue economy and the various jobs that go inside that. What would you say to people who say that offshore drilling could be part of that blue economy and possibly create jobs?

Fernandes: Well, I want to be really clear. My position is not that we are opposed to all energy production and exploration in the ocean. And in fact, it's quite the opposite; I think I've been very supportive of the Deepwater nation-leading wind farm that's off the coast of my district. Just recently, we've doubled the authorization for deep water offshore wind up to 3,200 megawatts. That powers around 2 million homes. Let's put that in perspective: There's around 2 million homes in Massachusetts. 

As a millennial state representative, there is no issue that's going to impact my generation, and my children's generation, more than climate change and sea level rise. And we need to do everything we can to keep oil and gas in the ground and support renewable energy.

Eident: Representative Duke Fernandes, thanks so much for chatting with us about this legislation.

Fernandes: My pleasure.