Democrats Make Group Move to Block Offshore Drilling

file photo
file photo

Published Jan 9, 2019 6:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

A group of House Democrats each introduced a bill blocking offshore drilling in one or more regions of the U.S. this week.

The efforts come as the Trump administration prepares to release the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which will define the administration’s vision for offshore oil and gas drilling. The Draft Proposed Program, released in January 2018, would have opened more than 90 percent of American waters to oil and gas development.

That version faced significant public opposition and pushback from a bipartisan coalition of governors, who asked then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for state-level drilling exemptions. BOEM’s upcoming Proposed Program is still expected to open some portions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern Gulf of Mexico regions and some Alaskan waters to leasing.

“Today’s bills are about a cleaner, more sustainable future for our country,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “We can create clean energy jobs and protect our coastlines at the same time with the right policy choices. The American people don’t want oil rigs on every beach up and down our coasts, and our economy doesn’t need them. Doubling down on offshore drilling would be a huge mistake, and we’re proud to work together to make sure we take a better course.”

The bills include:

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – The Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act of 2019

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) – The Coastal Economies Protection Act of 2019

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) – The California Clean Coast Act 2019

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) – The New England Coastal Protection Act of 2019

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) – The Florida Coastal Protection Act of 2019

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) – The West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2019 and the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2019

Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) – The Defend our Coast of 2019

Several major environmental organizations and coalitions spoke today in favor of the package. “The Trump administration should take note that it serves the public—not the oil industry—and abandon its reckless drilling plan once and for all,” said Alexandra Adams, Legislative Director, Nature Program, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Our coasts are home to 68 national park sites that are destinations for millions of annual visitors and havens for birds, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife. These parks contributed over $5.7 billion in economic output in 2017 to local coastal economies. While the administration is allowing dangerous seismic testing to move forward along the Atlantic Coast and is soon expected to open most of our coasts to offshore drilling, the House is getting back to work protecting our coastal parks, and the marine life they support, from expanded drilling,” said Natalie Levine, Program Manager, Park Resource Protection, National Parks Conservation Association.

Carrie Clark, Executive Director of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said that local governments and businesses across North Carolina have one message for President Trump: “Not off our coast.”

However, the American Petroleum Institute released a statement in response, saying: “Closing the door on offshore development could hurt local economies, as well as America’s energy security, and is a step in the wrong direction.”

API President and CEO Mike Sommers addressed more than 400 government, labor and industry leaders on America’s economic leadership at API’s ninth annual State of American Energy address this week highlighting record U.S. energy production and U.S. CO2 emissions reductions to their lowest level in a generation while calling on policymakers to enact policies that embrace technological innovation and open markets, implement effective trade policy, and expand U.S. energy infrastructure.

“Net oil imports this year are set to fall to their lowest levels since 1958. On some days, we actually export more oil than some OPEC nations produce. That’s a monumental shift in the global balance of energy power, and it’s paying off in communities across the nation – cutting family budgets and bringing manufacturing jobs back.”

Sommers also released a new energy poll on what Americans think about U.S. natural gas and oil. Key poll results:

• 84 percent support increased development of the country’s energy infrastructure
• 83 percent see natural gas and oil as important to the future.
• 78 percent of voters support increased production of natural gas and oil resources.
• 77 percent support energy policies that the natural gas and oil industry advocates: a secure supply of abundant, affordable and available energy.
• 75 percent support the role natural gas is playing in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
• 90 percent see personal value in natural gas and oil.