Cantwell, Colleagues Call for West Coast Drilling Ban in Reconciliation Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called on Senate leadership to include the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the West Coast, in the Senate version of the budget reconciliation bill, which proposes historic investment in the nation’s physical and human infrastructure. The West Coast Ocean Protection Act, along with a similar ban off the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf coasts, was included in a House version of the budget reconciliation bill.
In the letter, the senators wrote, “In light of the devastating oil spill this month off the coast of California, we urge you to include in the budget reconciliation bill our West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.”
The senators continued: “Budget reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to construct the energy policy of the future and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In taking advantage of this opportunity, we must reflect the will of our constituents and permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so would help build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”
The letter also references the devastating 1991 oil spill off Cape Flattery, which fouled shorelines in Olympic National Park and the Makah Reservation, including iconic Rialto Beach. While Washington state currently does not have any oil drilling platforms off its shores, the state has endured a history of oil spills that have caused years of damage to northwest coastal communities and ecosystems.
Cantwell has been a leading environmental champion throughout her time in Congress, repeatedly raising the alarm about the devastating impact of oil spills and drilling to our coasts. Senator Cantwell helped secure provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 that directs the Coast Guard to lead and revitalize interagency efforts to coordinate oil spill research and response technology development.
Cantwell was instrumental in helping to pass the PIPES Act of 2020, which reauthorized pipeline safety programs at the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). In April 2018, Cantwell introduced the Clean Coast Act to help protect American coasts from catastrophic oil spills. In December 2012, Cantwell-authored provisions to examine the risk of tar sands oil supertankers in Puget Sound became law. In 2006, Congress approved legislation Cantwell championed that boosted oil spill liability caps for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
Full text of the letter below:
October 6, 2021
The Honorable Chuck Schumer
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Joe Manchin
Chair, Energy and Natural Resources Committee
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin,
In light of the devastating oil spill this month off the coast of California, we urge you to include in the budget reconciliation bill our West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.
A similar prohibition on oil and gas leasing was included in Section 70804 of the House Natural Resources Committee’s title of the budget reconciliation bill and its implementation is estimated to cost $50 million. Given the impacts of oil drilling on communities along the Pacific Coast, this significant priority has a small price tag and is analogous to the way Republicans used their 2017 budget reconciliation bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
The West Coast Ocean Protection Act has been introduced every Congress since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010. Our states have unfortunately suffered numerous oil spills in recent history. For example, in 1991, over 900,000 gallons of oil spilled in Washington State; in 1969, over 4 million gallons of crude oil spilled in Santa Barbara, California; and, just this month, 126,000 gallons of oil spilled in Huntington Beach, California. In 2018 and 2019, the amount of oil spilled per barrel produced on the Outer Continental Shelf increased sixfold compared with the previous two years.
Any community that has been impacted by an oil spill in the last several decades is familiar with the tragic deaths of thousands of marine wildlife as well as the closure of local beaches. As clean energy becomes a larger share of the West Coast power supply, the trade-offs associated with offshore oil drilling are only becoming increasingly unnecessary and destructive.
Budget reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to construct the energy policy of the future and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In taking advantage of this opportunity, we must reflect the will of our constituents and permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so would help build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.
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