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A renewed attempt to save Georges Bank from drilling

The debate about drilling off New England is far from over. The debate about drilling off New England is far from over. (Globe file photo)
February 9, 2009
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Excerpts from the Globe's environmental blog.

A renewed attempt to save Georges Bank from drilling

Last year, US Representative Edward J. Markey added a clause to the energy bill, passed by the House, protecting historic Georges Bank fishing grounds from gas and oil exploration. The Senate never took up the issue.

But the debate about drilling off New England is far from over. As President Obama considers where drilling should be allowed and polls show public support for it, Markey last week reintroduced his legislation, saying any drilling on Georges could be disastrous to the New England fishing industry.

His Georges Bank Preservation Act would protect the submerged land mass, as well as marine national monuments or national marine sanctuaries, from exploration and drilling.

Markey says Georges Bank is vital to New England's economy. The collective catch of New Bedford, Gloucester, and Provincetown-Chatham, all of which rely on Georges Bank, is worth nearly $350 million annually.

In the early 1980s, eight exploratory wells were drilled about 125 miles east of Cape Cod. The effort sparked one of the most passionate environmental fights in New England - culminating in a dramatic 11th hour judge's decision to protect Georges Bank fish from drilling. It was considered one of the region's greatest environmental wins at the time.

Times are different now. Last week, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Obama administration was open to oil drilling in new offshore areas.

Meanwhile, an October Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll showed that Massachusetts residents overwhelmingly support expanded oil drilling. Fifty-eight percent back drilling in restricted areas off the coast of Massachusetts, while 31 percent oppose it.

Still, Markey says Georges Bank in particular is too precious to touch.

"This fragile ecosystem must be protected for its environmental - and fiscal - value," Markey said. "The legislation that I am introducing . . . with my New England colleagues will ensure that Georges Bank is never allowed to become Exxon's bank."

Lawsuit filed over Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
A lawsuit has been brought against the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation's first mandatory market-based effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Indeck Energy Services Inc. is challenging New York's authority to join the 10-state pact without legislative approval.

The company says it will lose millions of dollars under the initiative, which creates a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. While most plants can pass carbon costs onto customers, Indeck says a fixed price contract makes that impossible at its plant in Corinth, N.Y.

Indeck president Gerald F. DeNotto said "there was no choice but to file this lawsuit."

New York officials say the pact is legal.

"At every step of the way . . . power plants have tried to slow down this process and this is one more example . . .," said David Gahl, of Environmental Advocates of New York.

The pact, involving Massachusetts and other Northeastern states, is designed to cap power plant emissions in 2009 and then gradually reduce them.

BETH DALEY

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