As the Trump administration focuses on expanding reckless offshore oil drilling, Democrats and Republicans are finding common ground in the fight to stop it. Multiple new bipartisan bills making their way through Congress would help protect our climate, marine life, and coastal communities from the looming threat of oil and gas exploration and drilling. Here’s what their blue and red sponsors have to say about the dangerous business of offshore drilling.
Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act
Democratic Congressman (and former ocean engineer) Joe Cunningham of South Carolina is sponsoring the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which would prevent the secretary of the interior from opening up new areas off the Pacific or Atlantic coasts to drilling. The bill would protect beaches, shore communities, and businesses not only in his own state but up and down our eastern and western coastlines.
Today, I used an airhorn to demonstrate how disruptive seismic airgun blasting is to marine life. It was LOUD. Now imagine that sound 16,000x louder, repeated every 10 seconds for months, when you depend on sound to communicate/navigate. That's what seismic airgun blasting does. pic.twitter.com/1uBPyHVWu3— Archived: Rep. Joe Cunningham (@RepCunningham) March 7, 2019
Representative Cunningham has made it clear that his constituents stand behind him:
“By moving forward with [oil and gas] exploration, the federal government is ignoring the voices of coastal residents from Florida to Maine. It’s completely disregarding the people on the ground who have the most to lose and putting the interests of industry first. It’s ignoring my constituents—the very citizens who elected me to protect their coast from the development of offshore drilling.”
Protecting and Securing Florida's Coastline Act of 2019
Farther south, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney, who represents Florida’s 19th District along the Gulf Coast, recently introduced HR 205, which would permanently ban oil and gas leasing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. In House testimony in June, he hammered home the impact of offshore drilling on military preparedness:
“The eastern Gulf is home to the Gulf Test Range, a 120,000-square-mile range that stretches from the Florida panhandle to Key West. This unimpeded training and testing area is of critical importance to our military now and will become even more important in the future, as hypersonic and drone testing increase. Our military has no better location to carry out these exercises, and there is no compelling reason to place drilling interests ahead of military necessities. The proximity to major military bases and its large scale make the eastern Gulf of Mexico area a unique asset for national defense that cannot be replicated.”
He’s concerned not just about an oil spill itself, Rooney wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, but about the threat of a spill, which can drive businesses and investments away from the beaches on which his state depends.
“Coastal communities and businesses—charter boat captains, hotels, restaurants, recreational outlets, tourist services of all types—all depend on a healthy and pristine marine environment. Even the most remote risk or perception thereof undermines our tourism-driven economy.”
Florida Coastal Protections Act
A fellow Floridian on the other side of the aisle, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, is sponsoring a separate bipartisan bill, the Florida Coastal Protections Act, which would ban drilling off the coast of Florida. The ban, Castor wrote in a press release, is essential for fighting the climate crisis. (As we know, continuing to build out fossil fuel infrastructure means we’re farther away from the clean energy future needed to slow the pace of warming.)
“Here in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, we see rising tidal levels and temperatures, sunny day flooding, disappearing corals, and longer mosquito seasons. These are the real everyday impacts of climate change that my neighbors are experiencing and which carbon pollution engenders. We must not exacerbate the climate crisis, but instead take actions like extending the moratorium to solve it.”
Castor also reminded the Trump administration that the people have already called for a ban. Last fall, Florida’s Amendment 9, which effectively blocked offshore drilling along the state’s coasts, passed with a whopping 68 percent of the vote. Castor is joined by Rooney and Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan in sponsoring the Florida Coastal Protections Act.
#Florida delegation is united in protecting our coasts from oil & gas development. I’m proud to have led my colleagues w/ @RepRooney in urging @DOIDepSec Bernhardt to spare our Florida from offshore drilling @FloridaOceana @oceana pic.twitter.com/HcQN6k290w— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) March 2, 2019
California Clean Coast Act of 2019
Over on the West Coast, California’s Democratic Representative Salud Carbajal introduced the California Clean Coast Act of 2019, which would protect the length of the Golden State’s shoreline. (The state is no stranger to spills: The catastrophic spill near Santa Barbara in 1969 remains the third-worst in U.S. history, behind only the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez disasters.) The stakes are high: Coastal tourism and recreation rake in billions in revenue for the state each year, Carbajal said in a press release, supporting more than 800,000 jobs.
“The Central Coast knows too well the damage caused by oil spills, [and] our local economies and fragile ocean ecosystems cannot afford another disastrous spill. I am committed to working with my colleagues to fight this misguided decision that risks the health and safety of our coastal communities.”
Stop Arctic Drilling Act of 2019
California Democratic Representative Jared Huffman also introduced an anti-drilling bill, the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2019, which would extend the same protections in place in the Arctic to some of our most pristine and ecologically sensitive wilderness, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Perhaps Cunningham put it most succinctly when he said, just before introducing his bill, “I am not here just to say ‘no’ to offshore drilling but ‘hell no’ to offshore drilling.”
While the state can take solace in the recent moratorium extension, its waters are still at risk from the devastating impacts of seismic testing.
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Kindra Arnesen went to the mat to help heal and protect her southeastern Louisiana community and the fishery it relies on. Ten years later, she’s still fighting.
Sarah Chasis, a senior attorney in the Nature Program’s Oceans division, has nearly 50 years of experience defending our coasts from offshore drilling.
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