RICHMOND – Twelve attorneys general, including Virginia’s Mark Herring, called on the federal government Thursday to halt its plans for gas and oil drilling off their coasts.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior John Zinke, the attorneys general said the offshore drilling proposal “represents disregard for vital state interests, economies, and resources.”
Drilling off Virginia’s coast would pose a risk to the state’s marine environment, industries, revenue and military assets, Herring said.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia and our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that we are not interested in putting our economy and citizens at risk as part of President Trump’s giveaway to oil and gas companies,” Herring said in his statement accompanying the letter. “The federal government should not force this risk upon us.”
The letter follows Gov. Ralph Northam’s call last month that Zinke exempt Virginia from the drilling plans. Like Herring, Northam, a fellow Democrat, cited ecological and financial costs. Northam also noted that Zinke had exempted Florida at the request of that state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott.
The language used by the attorneys general is more forceful, promising to challenge the proposal “using appropriate legal avenues.”
In addition to Herring, the letter was signed by attorneys general from North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Oregon.
The letter also follows comments made by Herring and five other attorneys general to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Monday. The group criticized the proposed revisions to the Interior Department’s regulation of safety systems for offshore gas and oil production.
These regulations were put in place in 2016 after the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig led to the deaths of 11 people and the spilling of 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.