US House Democrats file bills to stop offshore drilling, exploration

House Democrats on Tuesday, 8 January, introduced a series of bills that would block the Trump administration from permitting offshore drilling in various regions of the U.S. exclusive economic zone.

Opponents of offshore drilling claim the practice could devastate both the environment and the economies of coastal communities, with the fishing industry particularly at risk.

“President Trump’s dangerous plans for offshore drilling will risk the livelihoods of millions on the Atlantic Coast and in New Jersey,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey, U.S.A.-based Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “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.”

The moves came as the administration plans to release its vision to explore for fuel deposits in U.S. waters. In late November, NOAA Fisheries authorized five companies to use seismic air guns to survey the Atlantic Ocean floor from New Jersey to Florida. The survey results would then be made available to oil and gas companies who would seek drilling permits.

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham filed a bill that would ban drilling and air gun blasting for 10 years in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In a release, the first-term South Carolina Democrat said his bill enjoyed bipartisan support across his state.

“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,” he said.

Other bills would protect the country’s Pacific and Arctic coasts from exploration and drilling. In addition, a number of similar proposals were filed in eight statehouses.

Scores of environmental organizations lauded the proposals.

“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,” said Alex Taurel, a program director for the League of Conservation Voters. “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.”


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