Sununu, Shaheen tangle over Trump offshore drilling move; Feltes, Pappas roll up sleeves

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse Wednesday March 30, 2016 in Concord, N.H., about the need to hold hearings on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • FILE - This panel of 2018 file photo shows New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly, left, and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. The candidates are running for the governor's seat in the November general election. (AP Photos, File) Thomas Roy

  • Feltes

For the Monitor
Published: 11/30/2018 6:20:46 PM

An initial move by the Trump administration to potentially greenlight offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast sparked tough language from both Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

While Shaheen blasted the GOP administration, Sununu took aim at New Hampshire’s senior senator while spotlighting his own close relationship with the Trump White House.

The Trump administration on Friday approved granting permits for companies to begin seismic testing, a possible first step towards allowing oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The Trump Administration is laying the groundwork for an environmental disaster on New Hampshire’s Seacoast,” Shaheen said in a statement. “These seismic tests are an immediate threat to our fishing industry, in addition to the long-term threat to New Hampshire’s economy and outdoor recreation industry posed by an oil or gas leak from drilling.”

Shaheen said the environmental impacts could be catastrophic, including harming whales and other ocean life.

“I will do everything in my power to stop this permitting and any efforts to move forward with Atlantic drilling,” Shaheen said. “The Senate should move quickly to consider legislation that I’ve cosponsored with Senator Booker to bar seismic testing in the Atlantic.”  

Sununu, who has already discussed his opposition to offshore drilling in a meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, tried to unring Shaheen’s alarm. 

“Governor Sununu understands that relationships matter, and instead of issuing a press release, he received assurances from Secretary Zinke in January 2018 – 11 months ago – that New Hampshire will be exempted from the Administration’s off-shore drilling plan,” spokesman Benjamin Vihstadt told the Monitor.

Vihstadt said the closest seismic tests are happening in New Jersey, “nowhere near New Hampshire.”

“Whether it’s fighting for health care flexibility or protecting New Hampshire’s coast from off-shore drilling, Governor Sununu has a seat at the table down in Washington, and is getting results,” Vihstadt said.

Feltes to execute Dems’ agenda

Incoming state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord said that besides hammering out the two-year state budget, passing his party’s campaign policy platform will be at the top of the agenda when the next legislative session gets underway next month.

“We put forward a plan to stand up for everyday Granite Staters, expand economic opportunity for everyone, not just those at the top,” Feltes said of the Granite State Opportunity Plan, which calls for passing paid family and medical leave, job training and apprenticeships, investing in clean energy, and health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Feltes said some of the legislation may be fast-tracked.

The Democrats recaptured the Senate for the first time in eight years on Nov. 6, turning a 14-10 Republican majority into a 14-10 Democratic advantage starting Wednesday, when the new state Legislature is sworn in.

The Democrats also convincingly regained control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in four years and will hold a 233-167 majority.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, who is expected to be elected House Speaker on Wednesday, said at the top of agenda for his caucus are paid family and medical leave, tackling the opioid and mental health crises, and cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.

“We have legislation that we championed in the last session and a lot of our Democratic candidates were talking about as they ran for election to the House,” he said.

Shurtleff said he’s close with Feltes and incoming Senate President Donna Soucy of Manchester and expects plenty of “inter-communications between the two bodies.”

Pappas in action

The new Congress in the nation’s capital will get down to business in January.

And New Hampshire’s newest member of the congressional delegation is already getting to work.

First Congressional District Rep.-elect Chris Pappas joined several fellow incoming U.S. House Democrats and current members in backing H.R. 1. That’s the first bill House Democrats plan to introduce in the upcoming 116th session of Congress. The measure, which focuses on campaign finance, ethics and voting rights reforms, outlines the priorities of the incoming House Democratic majority.

The Democrats made major gains in the midterm  elections, flipping approximately 40 seats from red to blue to regain the majority in the U.S. House for the first time in eight years.

“Throughout my campaign, I talked about the importance  of getting b ig money out of politics, securing the right to vote, and ending the culture of corruption i n Washington. Today I was proud to stand with future House colleagues to outline H.R. 1, which rebuilds our democracy and reforms our political system,” Pap pas said in a statement.

The Manchester Democrat and three-term member of New Hampshire’s Executive Council is hoping to serve on the House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

His support this past week for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker may help him land those committees.

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