Ocean City Today

House of Delegates poised to oppose offshore oil, gas

By Greg Ellison | Apr 05, 2018
Source: File Photo

(April 6, 2018) General Assembly passage of legislation opposing offshore oil and gas drilling appeared to be a virtual certainty following a pair of House of Delegates hearings late last week.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony in favor of the Offshore Drilling Liability Act. The following day, the House Rules and Executive Nominations heard testimony supporting a joint resolution that seeks to protect Maryland’s coastal areas from a federal proposal to lease waters along the east and west coasts, as well as Alaska, for exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas resources.

On Jan. 4, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a proposal for its 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which would open more than 98 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf for potential oil and gas leases. Three proposed lease areas are off the coast of Maryland.

Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) sponsored both pieces of legislation, which had earlier passed the Senate by identical 47-0 votes.

On Friday, Mathias told Rules and Executive Nominations the joint resolution is critical for all residents along the Maryland coast and Chesapeake Bay.

“It is a joint resolution calling on everyone, from the president of the United States through congress, to stop the reckless notion that they have to open up the Atlantic to gas and oil drilling,” he said.

In the eventuality that the resolution fails to prevent offshore drilling, Mathias said the Liability Act would establish strict liability standards for accidents resulting from offshore oil or gas drilling operations. It would also remove Maryland’s current cap of $100,000, established in 2015, for defendants appeal bonds, which would make obtaining insurance for drilling projects offshore difficult.

“Both myself and [Delegate] Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County) have [sponsored] an additional bill … calling for strict liability if, in fact, our elected officials don’t heed the call of six million Marylanders,” he said.

Stressing the environmental devastation that could result from accidents related to offshore oil or gas drilling operations, Mathias said the senate’s total agreement on the subject sends a resounding message from the state’s residents.

“This bill was passed unanimously, its bipartisan [and] it’s an urgent resolution,” he said.

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