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Havre de Grace approves resolution opposing offshore drilling

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

Havre de Grace leaders recently drew a standing ovation from Harford County environmental advocates for approving a resolution in support of Gov. Larry Hogan’s request that Maryland and the surrounding mid-Atlantic region be exempt from President Donald Trump’s initiative to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters.

“This resolution truly was an example of a grass roots resolution,” Mayor William T. Martin said. “It was an issue that was brought by citizens to their local council.”

The mayor spoke after the council unanimously voted during its May 6 meeting in favor of Resolution 2019-07. That resolution indicates that Havre de Grace, which is along the top of the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, is “a city that prides itself on good stewardship of its natural resources” given municipal “policies and practices” and the city’s compliance with state and federal environmental regulations such as the federal Clean Water Act, plus it “recognizes the viable threat to the ecology of the Bay, and to the local economy, in the event of a catastrophic oil spill.”

The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Jason Robertson, states that the city supports a request by Hogan and the governors of seven other states along the Atlantic coast to the U.S. Interior Secretary that their states be exempt from Executive Order 13795. The executive order, signed by President Donald Trump in the spring of 2017, is meant to implement an “America-first offshore energy strategy” by supporting sales of oil and gas drilling leases in “Outer Continental Shelf Planning Areas” in the Gulf of Mexico, the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska, the Cook Inlet in southern Alaska and the mid and South Atlantic Ocean.

Local environmental groups such as the Havre de Grace Green Team and Harford County Climate Action brought their concerns to city leaders, and they sponsored a recent presentation by Caroline Wood, mid-Atlantic campaign organizer for the Washington, D.C.-based international nonprofit Oceana.

Wood spoke during the March 18 council meeting about Trump’s executive order and the risks offshore oil drilling and the use of seismic airgun blasts to detect oil and gas under the seafloor pose to wildlife, the environment and coastal communities.

Wood said opposition in Maryland to offshore drilling is “strong — it is bipartisan; I would say it’s nonpartisan.”

“We expressed our concern about the risks that such [drilling] activity poses, not only to communities along the Atlantic Ocean but also those along the Chesapeake Bay, including Havre de Grace,” Carol Zimmerman, president of the Havre de Grace Green Team, said during the citizen comment portion of the May 6 meeting, ahead of the council’s vote on the resolution.

Oceana published a report on its website April 26 indicating the Trump Administration has paused its plans to expand offshore drilling following a ruling by a federal judge in Alaska that administration officials could not overturn a prior ban by the Obama Administration on drilling in the Arctic and off of the Atlantic coast, citing reports in The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.

The Havre de Grace council passed its resolution about a week and a half later.

“This took a while,” Robertson said as he thanked local environmental groups and Oceana for providing information to support the city’s resolution. “We worked at the speed of government, but we all wanted to make sure that we had everything right.”

Council President David Glenn thanked Robertson for taking the lead on the resolution. The mayor noted that, “from start to finish, it was a good example of working with community and working together, so thank you very much everybody.”

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