“Our environment is our state’s greatest asset,” said Rhode Island Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence). “Ask the thousands of men and women employed in the tourism, fishing, and marine industries. We are not going to sit back as a president who is in the pocket of Big Oil opens up our waters for outside companies to come in and start drilling. The president’s proposal is a disaster that would scar our state. As we have seen in the numerous offshore drilling catastrophes of the past decades, this extraction would ruin our beaches, disrupt our industries, and endanger our marine life.”

Regunberg submitted a resolution to the Rhode Island General Assembly today to unify the body in opposition to the Trump Administration’s plan to open nearly all of the country’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. He has long been outspoken on environmental and climate issues and was one of the first state elected officials to come out against the proposed Burrillville power plant in 2015.

The resolution states:

“…The threat to the economies of our coastal states and to the safety of those who work in the fisheries industry are too grave to allow these plans to proceed. It is time for everyone, including all Rhode Islanders, to lend their voices in opposition to the President’s offshore drilling policies and in support of our country’s vital natural resources and for those whose livelihoods depend upon the vigorous protection of our coastal waters; now, therefore be it RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby expresses opposition to President Trump’s decision to allow offshore drilling in most of America’s coastal waters…”

President Donald Trump made his intention to open United States coastal waters to drilling in an executive order last April. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke put that order into action January 4, yet less than a week after announcing the plan Zinke gave the state of Florida an exemption saying that he recognized the unique importance of the coast to Florida’s economy.

Regunberg, and lawmakers from across the country pointed out the political favoritism apparently at play.

Florida’s coastal waters are no more precious than our own,” said Regunberg. “Handing only them an exemption as a political favor to their governor is crony politics plain and simple. This resolution demands that the importance of protecting our coast is recognized, and that the choice of Rhode Islanders is respected.”

Next Thursday, January 25, there will be public comment taken on the proposal at the Marriott Hotel located at 1 Orms Street in Providence from 3-7pm. It is expected that a large number of environmental and business groups will be out in force to oppose the plan. Individuals and groups are strongly encouraged to bring signs and their voices to the public comment meeting.

Governor Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition to the offshore drilling plan. After the President’s announcement in April, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said,

“The only thing this order accomplishes is making a spectacle of putting dirty fossil fuel interests over the fishing, tourism, and other job-creating industries that rely on our oceans. There has never been commercial oil and gas production along the Northeast’s Atlantic coast and there never should be. If this administration tries, we will fight them tooth and nail. Along our southern Atlantic coast, even red state communities rose up against the Obama administration when it tried to green-light drilling; they are sure to do the same to President Trump. Our coastline and special places are too valuable — in Rhode Island and across America — to be sacrificed to fossil fuel company avarice.”

If passed, Regunberg’s resolution would define the state legislature’s position on the issue.

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