USA: West Coast senators want permanent offshore drilling ban

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray from Washington, supported by their Californian and Oregonian colleagues, have introduced an act to permanently ban offshore drilling on the U.S. Pacific Coast.

According to a statement issued on Thursday, the legislation, first introduced in 2010, would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to „permanently protect the $44 billion coastal economies of the three states, which support nearly 650,000 jobs in California, Oregon and Washington.“

The act called the West Coast Ocean Protection Act aims to permanently prohibit offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf off of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Cantwell and Murray were joined on the bill by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

While there has been no drilling on the Pacific coast for years, and the area hasn’t been included in the five-year drilling plans, a permanent ban has not been signed into law. To remind, it is five-year lease sale program announced in November the Interior Department excluded the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S.

Interior department says Atlantic is off limits due to current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses, and the Pacific is not available for lease sales due to ”the long-standing position of the Pacific coast states in opposition to oil and gas development off their coasts.”

 

Call for permanent ban

 

“Today, the West Coast supports thousands of jobs from fisheries, trade, tourism and recreation—which could all be devastated by an oil spill. We must permanently ban offshore drilling on the West Coast to protect our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems against the risk of an oil spill and we must make investments in clean energy alternatives to help meet America’s energy needs,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member of the Senator Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“There is far too much at stake to allow offshore drilling on the West Coast and in particular, off the coast of Washington. We need this permanent ban to safeguard our coastal environment and our state’s economy, including outdoor recreation, fisheries and so much more,” said Sen. Murray.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and 14 cosponsors.

“Lame-duck” moves

 

To remind, the outgoing president Barack Obama in December closed off millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic (including the Bering Sea) for oil and gas activity, much to the dismay of the pro-oil industry associations and politicians.

Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) then said: “We are hopeful that the incoming Trump administration can repair some of the damage done to the offshore energy industry and America’s energy security over the past eight years by putting policies in place that increase, rather than decrease, access to federal offshore areas.”

Luthi also said that the Obama administration moves put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage and sacrificed thousands of potential jobs and billions of dollars in government revenue and that the ban ignored the projected global energy demand increase which would mostly be covered by fossil fuels.

Alaska’s Congressman Don Young slammed Obama’s closing of the Arctic acreage for oil exploration as “a cowardly move by a lame duck President-”

“Eight years to take this action, yet it comes at the 11th hour with little to no support from Alaskans. The groundwork is already being laid to overturn this terrible decision,” Young said.

‘Lame duck’ is an expression used in the U.S. to describe a politician or administration in the final period of office, after the election of a successor.

Donald Trump will take over as the 45th President after the inauguration ceremony that takes place on Friday, January 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C., marking the start of the four-year term of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

It remains to be seen if he will be willing or able to overturn the Obama administration’s actions related to offshore energy, which the pro-oil officials are calling for.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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