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Northeast Fishery Managers Want East Coast To Remain Closed To Drilling

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Marine insight
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Governor Chris Sununu says it looks unlikely new offshore drilling would affect New Hampshire, but regional fishery managers are still worried.

The U.S. Department of the Interior says it wants to open most of the nation's coastline to new oil and gas leases. Sununu opposes drilling off New Hampshire's Seacoast, and says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured him the North Atlantic won't be high priority.

“They have to go through the public process and everything, so they couldn’t officially cut us off the list,” Sununu told reporters on a press call last week. “But it was clear that we were a low-target area for them and that our feelings on the matter would be strongly considered.”

Still, New England's federal fishery management council says even surveying for oil and gas – let alone drilling and transporting it – could hurt the East Coast's fishing industry.

The council got an update on offshore energy issues at their first meeting of 2018, last week in Portsmouth, and voted to urge federal regulators to take the whole Atlantic coast out of consideration.

"Spills don't happen all that often, but there clearly have been a number of cases that we all know about ... where those activities have resulted in some significant impacts to our marine resources,” says Doug Grout, who represents New Hampshire on the council.

He says any spill as well as sonic tools used in the oil and gas industry could endanger marine mammals and sensitive habitats, recreational fishing and valuable commercial harvests of ground fish, lobster and scallops.

A public meeting on the drilling proposal is set for March 5 in Concord, with other meetings late this month and early next month in Boston, Providence and Maine.

The public can comment on the plan through March 9.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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