Cardin on Offshore Drilling: ‘The Risks Here Are Just Too Great’
As a number of Democrats are eying the political advantages of President Obama’s newly announced offshore oil drilling strategy, Sen. Ben Cardin has another take.
“Expanding offshore oil sites when you already have tens of millions of acres currently available to the oil industry for exploration that they’re not using, to me, is something that really will not help a comprehensive energy policy for this country,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview with PBS Wednesday. “We’re talking about a minuscule amount of oil, and the risks here are great.”
Cardin, of course, has good reason to be wary of any plan that would allow new drilling in the mid-Atlantic. Maryland’s economy hinges largely on the health of both the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay, where agricultural run-off already poses an enormous threat to the crab and fishing industries.
We’re talking about the fishing industry. We’re talking about watermen. We’re talking about tourism. We’re talking about property owners. It could have a major impact on the economy of the Mid-Atlantic.
The comments put Cardin sharply at odds with a number of other Atlantic-coast lawmakers, who see new drilling as a boon to the local economy. Just to Cardin’s south, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Jim Webb (D) both applauded Obama’s proposed expansion this week. Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) told reporters yesterday that the White House announcement melds with “our plan to truly make Virginia the energy capital of the East Coast.” And Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said a drilling expansion will help tourism by keeping gas prices low.
“These things are miles offshore,” Sessoms told The Washington Post, referring to the oil rigs that could pop up off of Virginia’s coast. “They won’t be seen.”
But neither those arguments nor the claims that more underwater drilling will lead the country to greater energy independence has convinced Cardin that an expansion is worth the environmental risks that could ruin Maryland’s economy.
“There are places,” he told PBS, “that are too special to risk offshore drilling.”