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Offshore Drilling Opponents Question Feds At N.H. Info Session

Annie Ropeik for NHPR
Protesters outside an offshore drilling information session in Concord Monday

New Hampshire residents got some face time Monday with the federal staff behind a proposal to expand offshore drilling in the North Atlantic and elsewhere.

A couple dozen protesters and environmental advocates waved anti-drilling signs at passing cars outside a Concord hotel during the information session. 

It’s one of the last the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is hosting around the country this year. The agency's events in Boston and Providence garnered similar opposition.  

Linda Rauter from Chichester summed up her message this way:

"No drilling, no toxic waste coming into our water, don't disturb our marine life and birds as it has many other places," she says. "Let's just keep it as clean as possible without any effects from drilling."

Inside, BOEM staff talked to residents about the science of their work, and how climate change will factor in. Many said this is the first time in their decades-long careers they’ve had to include the North Atlantic in their discussions about oil and gas exploration and leasing.

BOEM Strategic Resources chief Renee Orr says she wants people to understand how Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke will finalize his drilling plan.

"So their comments then can be much more impactful than ‘I hate oil and gas’ or ‘I love oil and gas,’” Orr says. “That's really not informative to the decisions that he has to make and the balancing he has to do."

That balance, she says, is between environment and economy – between the whole country's buried oil and gas reserves, and local uses of the ocean.

Orr says the comments they get in New Hampshire and nationwide are part of a “winnowing process” for Zinke's final proposal. It’s due out in December, and she says it may eliminate some areas from consideration.

Public comment on this first draft closes Friday.

(Read a letter from Gov. Chris Sununu to Zinke about the drilling proposal, which Sununu opposes.)

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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