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Bills aim to protect Delaware coast from drilling

'Standing up and saying no'
September 20, 2018

Delaware's coast has two new laws protecting it from offshore drilling following a bill signing Sept. 20.

Under the Rehoboth Beach bandstand in Delaware's premier beach community, Gov. John Carney put his signature on a bill passed during the last legislative session, which prohibits drilling for oil and natural gas in Delaware's coastal zone. He then signed a second bill requiring the Department of Justice, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and other state agencies to review offshore oil and gas exploration leases along Delaware's coast to the extent permitted under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

“We are all standing up and saying no to something we know will be bad for our state,” Carney said to the bipartisan group of legislators and officials who gathered to celebrate the bill signing.

Among them was Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, who sponsored the bill prohibiting drilling off the coast.

“Not only did we get it right, we got it done,” he said, touting bipartisan support for his bill and the bill sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown. Both Lopez and Hansen were co-sponsors of each other's bill.

“Our beaches belong to us,” Lopez said. “No drilling today, no drilling tomorrow, no drilling ever along our coastline.”

Although Delaware's coastal zone is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an area 3 nautical miles off the shore, DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said the bills will prevent access by oil or gas drilling companies along Delaware's shore.

“It's critically important that we send the message to the federal government that we don't stand for this,” he said.

Delaware has done it before. In 2013, the Obama administration approved an Outer Continental Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-17 that included the Mid-Atlantic area. Carney, at the time a congressman, said he opposed it then, and the administration eventually removed the Mid-Atlantic from the federal 5-year plan.

As the Department of Interior gears up for its next 5-year plan, Carney said he has spoken with Secretary Ryan Zinke to oppose including the Mid-Atlantic in the leasing program, and he intends to keep the lines of communication open.

“We are here to say once again, 'No, not in the state of Delaware,” he said.