Vowing ‘no drilling ever’ offshore, Delaware officials move to block federal push

In January, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to expand possible offshore drilling sites in federal waters including nine sites in the Atlantic region. (AP file)

In January, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to expand possible offshore drilling sites in federal waters including nine sites in the Atlantic region. (AP file)

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is still on the mind of Suzanne Thurman. As executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute in Lewes, Delaware, she’s concerned about the health and well-being of all creatures depending on humans to keep their habitat safe.

The Deepwater spill leaked 4.9 million barrels of oil, totaling more than 200 million gallons, before it was capped nearly three months later.

“There are no assurances that this type of disaster can keep from happening anywhere that offshore drilling occurs,” Thurman said. “These creatures need to be protected from the devastation of harmful oil and gas drilling, which, even in its daily operation, will contaminate the marine ecosystem. And in the event of a spill, it would be catastrophic.”

She called new legislation banning oil and natural gas drilling in Delaware’s waters a big win for the state.

Gov. John Carney signed two bills Thursday that make the state’s position on offshore drilling very plain: “No to offshore drilling,” the governor said as he signed the bills in Rehoboth Beach.

Dewey Beach Mayor T.J. Redefer offered a stronger echo to Carney’s message. “Hell no” to offshore drilling, he said.

The legislation prohibits the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from issuing any permits connected to the development of offshore drilling infrastructure and authorizes other state agencies to fight any federal efforts to drill in waters off Delaware’s shore.

“Protecting the environment and enhancing economic opportunities are not mutually exclusive,” said state Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican representing the Lewes area. “Our beaches belong to us, and they’re not here for the taking … We make that unequivocal by clearly stating in this new law: no drilling today, no drilling tomorrow, no drilling ever on our coastline.”

In January, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to expand possible offshore drilling sites in federal waters including nine sites in the Atlantic region. The offshore land being considered for drilling extends 200 nautical miles from the coast beyond Delaware’s territorial waters, which extend just 3 miles from the state’s beaches.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is still working on its draft proposal for leasing offshore areas. Public hearings were held earlier this year, including an event in Dover in January. The public will have several more opportunities to weigh in on the proposal before it is finalized. The Department of the Interior hopes to have final approval by the end of 2019.

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