AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills said Monday that Maine will no longer participate in the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group working to promote an expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.

Mills, a Democrat, said in a letter to the coalition’s chair, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, that the group’s work was “incompatible with Maine’s interests.” In 2015, Maine’s former Republican Gov. Paul LePage joined the coalition, which is seeking to open more federal waters to oil and gas development, making Maine the only New England state in the group.

LePage also served as the coalition’s chair for two years before leaving. The states in the coalition include Alaska, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.

“Maine’s renowned coastline, with its clean water, beautiful beaches, and abundant marine resources is a unique asset supporting some of the state’s most important industries, most notably tourism and commercial fisheries,” Mills wrote. “Fifty-four percent of Mainers live in coastal counties, and the jobs of many Mainers are directly or indirectly tied to our coastal economy. The 46,000 jobs that Maine’s ocean economy provides would be jeopardized by oil and gas drilling activities off our coast.”

Maine’s U.S. congressional delegation also is opposed to offshore oil and gas drilling. The Maine House of Representatives and Senate voted unanimously last year to pass a joint resolution declaring that oil and gas drilling and exploration off Maine’s coast would endanger commercial fishing jobs and be an ecological and economic disaster for the state.

The coalition, which is staffed by oil and gas lobbyists, includes five other members – all governors from oil-producing states. It has sought to greatly expand the area open to offshore energy development, streamline permitting and increase the share of revenues states receive.

Mills said protecting Maine’s environment, especially its clean water, was an important responsibility for her administration.

“The Maine coast also includes Acadia National Park, 13 state parks, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge Complex, and the Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation,” she said in her letter. “These special places are not only environmentally sensitive, but also have great social and cultural significance. I cannot accept the risk that they could be despoiled.”

Mills vowed Monday to work with the governors of East Coast and West Coast states to fight any federal proposals to open the waters off the Maine coast to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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