At the same time of a concerted effort of state legislators to discourage offshore drilling, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives launched a broadside of bills looking to put a halt to the Trump administration’s plans to open up around 90 percent of the United States’ coastline to offshore oil and gas exploration.
All of the legislation was introduced Tuesday and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Texts of the bills were not immediately available, but should be posted relatively soon to Congress’ website, congress.gov.
Members of the committee who filed bills this week on offshore drilling include Rep. Don McEachin, D-Va., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. Rep. Frank Pollone, D-N.J., the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also submitted a bill.
Bills pertaining to Georgia include H.R. 291, filed by Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., which would place a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas pre-leasing, leasing and other activities along the entire Atlantic Coast, the Straits of Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. As of midday Wednesday, it had one cosponsor, Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla.
“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 air gun blasting off the Atlantic Coast,” Cunningham said in a statement. “I am proud to have the support of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, advocates and organizations up and down the coast of South Carolina.”
Pollone’s bill, H.R. 341, goes a step farther and would permanently ban offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf for the same area covered in Cunningham’s legislation. H.R. 341 has 44 cosponsors, which are mostly Democrats, except for Rooney and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
McEachin’s legislation would take Mid-Atlantic areas of the outer continental shelf out of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which includes Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. That bill, H.R. 337, has six cosponsors, including Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.
H.R. 310, by Huffman, would permanently ban offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf off California, Oregon and Washington, and H.R. 309, also introduced by Huffman, would prohibit drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Seventeen Democratic House members signed on as original cosponsors to H.R. 310, and 14 signed on to H.R. 309.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., submitted H.R. 287, which bans oil and gas leasing on the outer continental shelf off the New England states. It drew 19 original cosponsors, all Democrats.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., put forward H.R. 286, which would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to “prohibit oil and gas pre-leasing, leasing and related activities.” That bill has three co-sponsors, including Florida GOP representatives Rooney and Vern Buchanan.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., filed H.R. 279, which would permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the California coast. In all, 41 other representatives are original cosponsors of the bill — all are Democrats from California.
Including Carbajal himself, that counts for 79 percent of the California delegation to the House.
“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,” Natalie Levine, program manager with the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement. “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.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, maintains the position that the United States should pursue an “all of the above” energy policy, which includes possible offshore drilling.
“Energy exploration, particularly offshore energy exploration, is going to be something that’s important,” Carter said at the Brunswick-Glynn County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Grits & Issues forum in December. “Now let me make sure everyone understands — just because the (seismic) testing has been approved, at least this first portion of it, don’t think that there’s not a long ways to go in this process. There is a long ways to go. There is a very long ways.”
The new Democratic majority in the House made moves on environmental policy from the beginning of the session, including a new “climate crisis” committee. Should any of the bills introduced Tuesday make it to the Senate, the path forward would likely be much tougher.
Among those reasons is that the new Democratic ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is known to be friendly to the fossil fuels industry.
Last year, he supported the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in her quest to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.