Chairman Grijalva Praises House Environmental Leaders For New Legislation to Protect Americans From the Harms of Offshore Drilling

Washington, D.C. – Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today praised a coalition of House Democrats on their newly introduced suite of bills to protect America’s coastal communities from offshore drilling. The bills are being introduced on the same day that similar state-level legislative announcements took place at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

The efforts come as the Trump administration prepares to release the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) long-awaited Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) 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. Instead of heeding to their request, Zinke traveled down to Florida to promise then-Gov. Rick Scott a Florida moratorium, which led to the bipartisan gubernatorial outcry. 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,” Grijalva said. “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.”

Each of seven House lawmakers introduced a bill today blocking offshore drilling in one or more regions of the OCS.

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

“President Trump’s dangerous plans for offshore drilling will risk the livelihoods of millions on the Atlantic Coast and in New Jersey. An oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic Coast would cause severe environmental damage to fisheries, popular beaches and wildlife. I will work with members of the New Jersey delegation and colleagues in Congress to pass the COAST Anti-Drilling Act and prevent the Trump Administration from wreaking havoc on New Jersey’s coastal communities.”

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

“The Lowcountry’s vibrant natural resources are vital to our economy and way of life and I have been clear since day one about my commitment to fighting against dangerous and unwanted offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast. I am proud to have the support of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, advocates, and organizations up and down the coast of South Carolina. South Carolinians on both sides of the aisle are united in opposition to offshore drilling and the threat it poses to tourism, the economy, and our quality of life. We simply ask that Washington respects our wishes.”

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

“With the Trump Administration’s unrelenting attacks on our environment and natural resources, it is more important than ever to make it clear that we will not accept further oil leasing and development off our shores. In California, our coastal communities, local economies, and fragile ocean ecosystems cannot afford another disastrous oil spill. That is why it is critical that we pass legislation to protect our coastal environment from further oil drilling and preserve its beauty and vibrancy for future generations.”

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

“Rhode Island is the Ocean State. We’re not going to sit by and watch as President Trump plunders our oceans for his friends in the big oil companies. It’s critical that we protect the jobs and economic growth that our coastline generates for cities and towns across Rhode Island. We don’t want oil and gas drilling just a few miles off our shores. This bill will make sure that never happens.”

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

“Here in Florida, we are keenly aware of the devastating impacts of oil and gas drilling off our shores. Our state’s vital natural resources – and our state’s economy – cannot risk the devastation brought by blowouts, nor can it afford the high costs of carbon pollution. We have an obligation to act now to protect our beautiful Florida coastline, our economy and our future.”

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

“The science and wave of public opposition is clear: America’s oceans must be protected from dangerous offshore drilling. Opening our public waters up to oil and gas companies puts fragile ecosystems in jeopardy for environmental catastrophe. We cannot stand idly by while the Trump administration places the short-term profit goals of polluters over the long-term interests of the American people. I’m glad to join today’s nationwide effort to block offshore drilling by introducing my legislation to give the Pacific Coast and Arctic Ocean the protections they deserve, shielding our oceans from reckless exploitation.”

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

“I am re-introducing the Defend our Coast Act as my first bill of the 116th Congress because I am determined to do everything I can to protect our coastal communities. History has shown us that offshore drilling accidents can threaten public health, military operations, and marine life. The potential toll from a spill—in terms of damages, injuries, deaths, and other harms—is incalculable. Offshore drilling has no place off the coast of Virginia. Our jobs, tourism, ecosystems, and local economies are not worth the risk that comes with offshore drilling. We need to invest in clean renewable energies that do not damage our one Earth.”

“Offshore drilling is a direct threat to my district,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), an original cosponsor of McEachin’s bill. “It has the potential to hurt our environment, our military, and our economy. As a 20-year Navy veteran who trained off the Virginia coast, I know that having to dodge oil platforms would disrupt operations, impact readiness, and undermine our national security. And as an oceanfront small business owner, I know what offshore drilling could do to Virginia’s shorelines, tourism industry, and aquaculture. I’m proud to work across state lines and party lines to ensure that we can ban offshore drilling in the Hampton Roads region and beyond.”

Several major environmental organizations and coalitions spoke today in favor of the package.

“The Trump administration has ignored the broad public outcry to stop its disastrous plan to open our coasts to the hazards and harms of offshore drilling.  Today members of congress from across the country are introducing legislation to protect our coasts, communities and climate.  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.

“Not only must President Trump's radical offshore drilling plan contend with an outpouring of opposition from coastal tourism and fishing businesses as well as state and local elected officials from both parties up and down our coasts. Now he faces a new, pro-environment House of Representatives ready to advance legislation defending coastal economies and ways of life from the risks of oil spills and the increasingly deadly impacts of climate change exacerbated by expanded offshore drilling. We thank the sponsors of these bills for standing up for communities from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic and from the east coast to the west coast. For the sake of our communities, our health, and our climate, we must stop the expansion of offshore drilling and accelerate our transition to clean energy,” said Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director, League of Conservation Voters.

“We one hundred percent support Reps. Jared Huffman and Raúl Grijalva and House Democrats moving legislation to protect America’s coastlines from dangerous offshore development,” said Leah Donahey, Legislative Director at Alaska Wilderness League. “The Arctic in particular is fragile and remote with little to no infrastructure to deal with potential oil spills. The region continues to warm, and this warming is reflected in the increasingly extreme climate-related events we’re seeing across the continent. Sea ice is disappearing, and iconic Arctic species like polar bears face an uncertain future. Simply put, it would be irresponsible to drill there.”

“The bills introduced today by members of the House show definitively that new leadership is appropriately prioritizing the protection of our coasts, national parks and local communities. 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.

"Local governments and businesses across North Carolina have one message for President Trump: 'Not off our coast,'" said Carrie Clark, Executive Director of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. "This issue transcends party lines because our coastal ecosystem is too important to our vital fishing and tourism economies. We support Rep. Cunningham's bill."

"We applaud this effort to safeguard America's coasts from the Trump administration's reckless offshore drilling expansion plans," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle understand that offshore drilling threatens coastal economies, wildlife, and our climate -- all for the sake of corporate polluter profits. It's time for the administration to listen to the coastal communities, members of Congress, and millions of Americans who have spoken out against offshore drilling, and withdraw this dangerous proposal."

“Week two on the job and House Democrats are showing their leadership by protecting thousands of miles of America’s coastlines from oil and gas drilling. We know from the devastation caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon and the ongoing 14-year Taylor Energy leak that there is no such thing as safe offshore drilling. The unfettered offshore drilling that the Trump administration supports is hugely unpopular with the overwhelming majority of Americans. We applaud these leaders for heeding the will of the American people,” said Steve Mashuda, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Oceans’ Program.

“State legislators know the value of their coastal communities and economies, and the grave risks imposed by drilling off their coasts. This is why today eight states are coming together to announce state legislation that will ban or restrict offshore drilling. While this will not prevent the federal government from advancing its reckless Draft Proposed Program to open up our outer continental shelf to drilling, these state bills will mitigate transportation of offshore oil and gas across state waters and make lease sales off from these states, therefore, less attractive. This comes after five states have already taken action against drilling last year. These legislators agree that our future energy needs should be met by safe, clean, renewable sources that protect our communities and build the economy of the future,” said Jeff Mauk, Executive Director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

“If President Trump’s radical offshore drilling agenda is not stopped, coastal recreation, fishing and tourism could be changed forever. There’s massive coastal opposition to offshore drilling and exploration, and congressional leaders are taking action to reject a future of dirty and dangerous offshore drilling and spilling,” said Diane Hoskins, Campaign Director, Oceana.

“Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that threatens our nation's ocean recreation and tourism sector valued at over $115 billion per year. Surfrider applauds federal and state lawmakers across the U.S. for their leadership in opposing the Trump administration's plans for expanded offshore drilling,” said Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation.

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