Barney Frank Opposes Offshore Drilling For Fishing Industry

     With oil trading above $145 a barrel, exploration and drilling for oil could provide economic opportunities for Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) struggling congressional district.


     That wasn’t enough to persuade Frank, who insisted this would hurt the fishing industry in his district. He made the anti-drilling comments during CNBC’s July 14 “The Call” in anticipation of Bush’s announcement that he would lift the executive order banning oil drilling offshore.


     “Well, my main focus on that is on the fishing industry,” Frank said. “I represent the port of New Bedford and Fairhaven – the single most prosperous fishing port in America and the fishing industry has always been very worried about this.”


     But one fisheries group expressed a completely different view. Bob Jones, executive director of the Southeast Fisheries Association, explained to the Northwest Florida Daily News on June 22 that oil rigs actually help fish populations.


     “The best recreational fishing in the gulf is off Louisiana,” Jones said. “(Rigs) really do attract the fish; they're really good.”


     On July 14, President George W. Bush lifted an executive order that banned offshore oil drilling and lobbied Congress to follow suit. However, Frank also expressed concerned about the potential of an oil spill.


     “Nothing that I have heard from the people who are in the fishing industry – uh, nothing has alleviated their fears,” Frank said. “An oil spill could be terribly, terribly damaging to them.”


     The threat of an oil spill from offshore drilling has lessened significantly over the years according to the Heritage Foundation’s Ben Lieberman.


     Lieberman called the concerns “overblown” in an op-ed on on July 11. “Advances in technology have greatly reduced the risk of oil spills, as was amply proven in late August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf but didn’t cause a single offshore mishap of any significance.”


     Frank has been outspoken about the economic plight of his home district. Last year, Frank complained how his district was being hit in the wake of the downturn in the economy in an interview with the Financial Times. At the time of the interview, Quaker Fabric, a textile maker in Falls River, Mass., had just announced 800 layoffs and he was looking to see what he could do to soften the economic blow.


     Offshore oil production has served as a help to the Louisiana economy according to the July 14 USA Today. According to an article by Rick Jervis, William M. Welch and Richard Wolf, Louisiana “gets about $1.5 billion annually in oil and gas revenue, a figure that will grow” even more.


     “It’s absolutely worth it,” Garret Graves, head of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Coastal Activities said to USA Today.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Rep. Barney Frank. He represents Massachusetts, where Quaker Fabric is located.