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House Democrats Are on a Legislative Blitz to Ban Offshore Drilling

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The Trump administration wants to drill every inch of ocean it can. But on Tuesday, representatives in the Democratically-controlled House introduced a number of bills that would block the administration’s plans. The bills cover all different parts of the coast and include a number of Republican co-sponsors from coastal states, underscoring just how unpopular the whole offshore drilling thing is.

Seven Democrats introduced a swath of different bills that would collectively protect every inch of coastline the U.S. has, including the Arctic, from drilling for oil and gas. The bills are sponsored by members of Congress who have been around awhile like Frank Pallone, Kathy Castor, Jared Huffman, and David Cicilline as well as a newcomer in Joe Cunningham who won his Republican-leaning South Carolina district campaigning heavily on his ocean science credentials and desire to ban offshore drilling.


“Our vibrant natural resources define South Carolina and they create a unique way of life,” Cunningham said at an event announcing his bill. “They generate revenue and jobs. Risking our thriving tourism, recreation, and fishing industries to oil exploration would have devastating economic repercussions across this state. We’re not here just to no to offshore drilling but ‘hell no’ to offshore drilling.”

According to E&E News, Cunningham’s bill is similar to legislation introduced by his predecessor Mark Sanford, who faced a primary and lost the Republican nomination. The bills introduced by other representatives also harken to past bills that stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress that was loathe to challenge Trump’s agenda.


Huffman’s two bills, for example, are both rewrites of 2017 legislation that would bar drilling in the West Coast and Arctic waters by amending the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The latter’s justification was completely focused on climate change, which is likely one of the reasons it never went anywhere in the last Congress.

But with Democrats in the driver’s seat, it seems likely some if not all of these bills will see the floor someday. Especially given the bipartisan support. Castor’s bill to ban drilling in around Florida, where she represents a district in the Tampa Bay area, mirrors one she introduced in 2017 to keep an offshore drilling moratorium in place once the current one expires in 2022. The bill was reintroduced with support from Florida Democrats like representatives including Charlie Crist as well as Republic representatives Francis Rooney who co-sponsored Castor’s 2017 bill, and Vern Buchanan who has supported other offshore drilling moratoriums.

The flurry of legislation at the start of the new Congress reflects the priorities of a Democratic House to check the Trump administration, combat climate change, and implement the will of the people. Offshore drilling remains unpopular across the nation, particularly in coastal areas. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, Americans disapprove of drilling 51-42 percent, and the gap grows to 56-34 percent within 25 miles of the coast (7 and 10 percent didn’t know their opinion, respectively).

Companies also aren’t buying what the Trump administration is selling, with lease auctions that have turned out to be big flops compared to what the administration expected. Now offshore wind, on the other hand, has been a whole different ball game.


This post has been updated to reflect that Representative Charlie Crist is a Democrat.