Environment America Blog

A new wave of legislation against offshore drilling

By Kelsey Lamp
Protect Our Oceans, Advocate

Photo: Gabriel Barathieu via Flickr

Earlier this month, a group of legislators from both coasts signed onto a wave of eight bills in Congress aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan.

Of course, it is unlikely that these bills will reach the president’s desk, and if they did, it’s even more unlikely he would sign any of them. Still, the message is clear: Members of Congress are eager to ensure there’s no drilling off our coast, and are laying out their vision for a future free from dirty, dangerous drilling.

Each bill is different. Some restrict offshore drilling in parts of our federal waters for a decade, while others call for permanent bans on leasing our oceans for drilling. Each bill would ban drilling in only a specific part of our federal waters. All eight bills would alter the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to prohibit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from issuing oil and gas leases.

Here’s a primer on the basics of each bill:

The Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.)

This bill permanently bans energy exploration and oil and gas leasing off the entire Atlantic coast, in the Straits of Florida and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The bill currently has 55 co-sponsors, including two Republicans — Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida and Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey.

The Coastal Economies Protection Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.)

This bill puts a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic, the Straits of Florida, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of the Florida coastline. The bill is also co-sponsored by Rep. Rooney (R-F.L.). The previous version of this bill was introduced by Rep. Cunningham’s predecessor, Republican Mark Sanford.

The California Clean Coast Act 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.)

This bill permanently prohibits new oil and gas leasing off the coast of California. It’s co-sponsored by 42 California representatives.

The New England Coastal Protection Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)

This bill permanently bans oil and gas exploration and leasing off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The bill is co-sponsored by every U.S. House member from a New England coastal state.

The Florida Coastal Protection Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)

This bill permanently prohibits new oil and gas leasing in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of the coastline of Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean off of Florida, and in the Straits of Florida. The bill is co-sponsored by Florida representatives on both sides of the aisle.

The West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)

This bill permanently prohibits oil and gas exploration and leasing off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. The bill currently has 20 co-sponsors from the west coast.

The Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)

This bill permanently prohibits the issuing or renewing of oil and gas leases in the Arctic Ocean, including the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Eighteen representatives are co-sponsors on the bill at the time of writing.

The Defend our Coast Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.)

This bill permanently prohibits the Department of Interior from issuing oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Mid-Atlantic (North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware). The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, along with a number of Democrats from the region.

When taken together, these bills set forth a simple vision: a future in which new drilling off our coast would be impossible in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next 10 years.

What’s more, these federal representatives were not the only elected leaders this month to envision a coast free from the threat of drilling. As these bills were introduced in D.C., lawmakers in at least nine state houses announced state-level legislation. In Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island, legislators collaborated under the aegis of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators to introduce bills that would hamper any expanded drilling in federal waters. The state proposals vary, but most of them aim to ban near-shore drilling (in state waters) or block the infrastructure needed to transport the oil and gas to land and to handle it once there — infrastructure that is inconsistent at best with the beauty and tourism that are synonymous with our coasts.

All of these bills embody the love Americans have for our country’s beautiful, important coastlines. We all know we shouldn’t threaten that beauty. We all know not to hurt local communities for a little more oil. And at a time when renewable energy and clean transportation options are quickly rising, we know we have other options.

That’s why we should join with these elected officials to say, “No drilling, now or in the future.” Drilling off our coasts is unacceptable, and we will fight the proposed expansion every step of the way.