New “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act” a Testament to Resolve

Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2) and 36 original cosponsors today reintroduced the “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act,” which prohibits the provision of new oil and gas leases, as well as the renewal of old ones, in America’s Arctic Ocean.

The legislation builds on the historic action taken by President Obama last year to permanently protect the vast majority of these still pristine, publicly-owned waters from the ideologically driven efforts to expand risky offshore drilling. And it’s a testament to the resolve of Members of Congress from across the country, reflecting the calls for protection from Native Alaskan residents and veterans in addition to a host of environmental, Latino, conservation, faith-based, and women’s rights organizations, and the millions of citizens who have spoken out.

An oil spill in the Arctic would devastate an ecosystem rich in biodiversity and home to some of our planet’s most charismatic megafauna including polar bears, walruses, and bowhead whales. It would place at risk the livelihood and traditional culture of indigenous Arctic residents, already threatened by the worst climate change has wrought on the globe thus far. All while digging our carbon pollution hole deeper. The extraction of the Arctic’s oil has been specifically identified as incompatible with a safe climate future. Capital and political investment in Arctic drilling would undercut the accelerating clean energy transition and hamper our ability to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. All the while developing sustainable, domestic jobs that are not susceptible to the boom-and-bust cycles of oil prices.

Despite the harms unavoidably wrought by offshore drilling, and American’s overwhelming preference for protection—rather than exploitation—of the Arctic Ocean (and Atlantic), President Trump and oil industry allies in Congress persist their assault on our public lands and oceans. His cabinet choices, executive orders, and the legislation President Trump prioritized make clear that his allegiance belongs to polluters’ profits, not the American public.

Adding insult to injury, opening these public waters at the behest of a few select, private companies represents economic folly. The fossil fuel industry has received taxpayer handouts for decades and expanded offshore drilling would extend this dependency on raiding taxpayer pockets. This would be particularly egregious considering recent analysis by notable investors that Arctic drilling is all risk, its pursuit amounting to a “vanity project.”

The bottom line is the fossil fuel industry has stockpiled decades’ worth of oil. We face serious threats from climate change, and must now make smarter energy choices for the future. That means supporting more renewable sources, like wind and solar power that provide grow the economy while cutting pollution. 

With the “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act,” Representative Huffman and his colleagues have drawn a line against expanded drilling that robs this and future generations of a stable climate, healthier environment, and a clean energy economy. Momentum is growing to preserve and protect our remaining federal lands and oceans, and America owes these Congressional voices thanks for their leadership.

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