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Gov. Sununu Signals Opposition To Offshore Oil Drilling In North Atlantic

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Governor Chris Sununu says he opposes oil drilling off New Hampshire's coast, as the federal government proposes opening the North Atlantic region and much of the nation's coastline to oil and gas production.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management wants to hold two auctions for offshore drilling space between New Jersey and Maine, in 2021 and 2023 – plus four more auctions in the South and Mid-Atlantic.

The bureau says there has never been any commercial oil and gas discoveries or drilling leases in those areas.

It estimates the North Atlantic holds 1.8 billion barrels of oil and nearly 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – amounting to about 3 percent of the nation's economically viable oil and gas reserves. The Gulf of Mexico holds more than half.

Add that to existing infrastructure there and in the Arctic, and analysts say the Atlantic may not be a priority for developers.

Still, Gov. Sununu joins a chorus of East Coast officials in pushing back on the plan.

“Of course I oppose drilling off of New Hampshire’s coastline,” he said in a statement to NHPR.

Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen have said the environmental risk to the region’s natural resources is too great. Hassan sponsored in a bill in Congress last year that would have banned offshore drilling on the East Coast entirely.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is the only outlier, having signaled support to offshore drilling in the past.

A 2009 analysis by the lobbying group American Energy Alliance estimated New England’s coastal states could earn a combined $1.4 billion in added tax revenue by investing $822 million in offshore drilling, creating more than 50,000 jobs.

New Hampshire makes up the smallest portion of those benefits.

The bureau will hold a public hearing on its new plan in Concord on Jan. 23. Hearings in Boston, Rhode Island and Maine are also set for that week. The hearing in Connecticut is Feb. 13.