O'Malley op-ed calls offshore drilling "a big mistake"

Former Gov. Martin O'Malley criticized the Obama administration's plan to open a swath of the southeastern Atlantic seaboard to oil and gas drilling, writing in a New York Times op-Ed Moday that the proposal is "a big mistake."

O'Malley, who left office last month, called the plan released last week a "whiplash decision" to sell leases in federal waters from Virginia to Georgia. He wrote that a potential disaster would impact states far beyond them, and referenced the lingering effect of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


"To allow drilling off the Atlantic Coast is to willfully forget Deepwater's awful lesson even as the economic, environmental and public health consequences continue to reverberate in communities along the gulf," O'Malley wrote. "If a disaster of Deepwater's scale occurred off the Chesapeake Bay, it would stretch from Richmond to Atlantic City. ... The 50-mile buffer the administration has proposed would be irrelevant. And unlike the gulf, the Chesapeake is a tidal estuary, meaning that oil would remain in the environment for decades."

In his two-terms, O'Malley, a Democrat weighing a bid for president, accumulated a record that places him among Maryland's greenest governors. While environmentalists praised him for convincing other states to join a climate change compact and boosting the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources, O'Malley also drew their scorn for proposing regulations that allow for natural gas fracturing.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, O'Malley successor, declined through spokesmen last week to take a position on Obama's offshore drilling plan.

Other states have pushed for offshore drilling as a way to bolster state coffers and create jobs. But O'Malley said the benefits of fossil fuel exploration — at a time of low oil prices and cheap natural gas — don't outweigh the risks of a potential environmental disaster. 

"There is simply no compelling economic or security reason to expose the communities of the Atlantic Coast to the threats offshore drilling presents," O'Malley wrote.

Obama's proposal would sell federal leases off the continential shelf from 2017 to 2022. Any drilling would be at least a decade away.

O'Malley also suggested a greater investment to grow the country's renewable-energy businesses and eliminating subsidies that favor oil companies.

The piece came days after O'Malley's federal committees disclosed raising $191,625 in December, much of it from donors in Maryland. The reports showed O'Malley had nearly $905,000 on hand — money that can be spent on other candidates and for travel but not on a presidential campaign itself, should he launch one.

O'Malley is raising money into two accounts, both of which are named O'Say Can You See. The reports show a $2,512 contribution to Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and a $2,229 donation to Pat Murphy, the Democratic nominee for an Iowa House seat who lost to Republican Rod Blum in last year's midterm elections.

Update at 5 p.m.: Hogan's spokeswoman issued a statement about drilling, although it does not say what the new governor thinks about Obama's proposal.

"Governor Hogan supports an 'all-of-the-above' approach to making energy more affordable for Maryland families--as long as these efforts can be accomplished in an environmentally safe way," spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said in an email.