By Matt Murphy, State House News Service | December 20, 2018
State Attorney General Maura Healey signed Massachusetts onto a multi-state lawsuit Thursday seeking to block the Trump administration from allowing seismic testing for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.
The lawsuit against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service was filed in US District Court in South Carolina and marks an escalation in the opposition from Healey and other state attorneys general to drilling in previously restricted areas of the Atlantic.
Healey’s office said offshore drilling would harm coastal ecosystems and threaten protected endangered species, including the North Atlantic Right Whale, which feeds in the waters off of Cape Cod and Nantucket.
“Approving these blasting tests paves the way for the Trump Administration to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling and poses a severe threat to our coastal communities, our fishing industry, and the health of the ocean,” Healey said in a statement after announcing her participation in the lawsuit at the New England Aquarium in Boston. “Today we are suing to stop this reckless plan that allows the oil and gas industry to destroy fishing families, local businesses, and marine life.”
The lawsuit is being led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and was joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
In the past, Healey has also raised safety concerns with offshore drilling following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said it could have negative economic impacts on his city, the highest grossing fishing port in the country
“The numbers speak for themselves: Our port now supports nearly 7,000 jobs and contributes $10 billion dollars to the Massachusetts economy. The Interior Department is placing all of this success at grave long-term risk. The effort to pursue a drilling program off the U.S. East Coast is ill-conceived and creates the possibility of an ecological disaster for the fisheries that the commercial fishing industry depends on for its viability,” Mitchell said.