Offshore Drilling Officially Opposed

OCEAN CITY — Reiterating a position it has held for decades, the Mayor and Council this week passed a resolution in opposition to proposed offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration off the resort coast.

In January, the Trump administration announced a plan to open roughly 90 percent of the nation’s coastline to potentially dangerous offshore drilling and exploration. Closer to home, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to conduct three sales of offshore oil and gas leases off the coast of Ocean City to private sector interests beginning in 2020.

The latest presidential executive order began anew the long-standing battle by coastal communities, state leaders and environmental advocates against potentially dangerous offshore drilling and exploration. In 2014, the Obama administration considered opening as many as three million acres off the mid-Atlantic coast for offshore drilling, but eventually reversed that decision under mounting pressure from coastal communities, local, state and federal officials and environmental groups.

At the time, the Ocean City Mayor and Council passed a resolution in opposition to offshore drilling and seismic air gun testing in September 2015. With the proposed lease of millions of acres off the mid-Atlantic coast for offshore drilling now back on the table, the Mayor and Council on Tuesday reiterated its opposition with a new resolution.

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out that despite the ongoing debate with the developers of offshore wind energy farms and the proximity of the proposed turbines within view of the resort coast, there are obvious benefits to the clean energy they could provide. However, resort officials cannot see any benefit from offshore drilling and exploration as close as 20 miles from the Ocean City coast.

“I’m going to reflect on an ongoing opinion with regards to offshore drilling for gas and oil,” he said. “While we support most of the benefits of offshore wind as long as it is done in a responsible way and far enough from our shoreline that we don’t see it, we can find nothing that benefits the town of Ocean City or the state of Maryland or our citizens to having offshore drilling for gas and oil off the Atlantic coast,” he said.

Meehan pointed out the resolution did not represent a departure from a position the town has held for decades. A former Mayor and Council passed a similar resolution in opposition to offshore drilling as early as 1974.

“The Mayor and Council has been very consistent in its opposition to this type of activity,” he said. “We can go back to a resolution passed in 1974 in opposition to offshore oil drilling off the coast of Ocean City. The Mayor and Council passed a resolution in 2015 in opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing for oil and gas exploration, so we have been very consistent on this issue.”

In terms of the resolution itself, the document points out numerous ways the proposed offshore drilling and exploration could negatively impact the resort.

“The Mayor and City Council believe that such proposed actions represent a clear and present danger to the health, safety, environmental and economic welfare of the visitors, citizens and property owners of Ocean City who depend upon a clean and attractive natural environment and who would be irreparably harmed by the activities associated with oil and gas drilling, including but not limited to the visual impact of offshore structures, the discharge of contaminated drilling and production waste into the Atlantic Ocean and the catastrophic impacts of an accidental oil or gas spill,” the resolution reads.

The public comment period for the proposed 2019-2024 Oil and Gas Leasing Program is now open and Meehan urged area residents to respond and voice their opposition. To submit online comments, visit

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.