Earlier this week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, introduced a bill to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.
The bill, West Coast Ocean Protection Act, was co-sponsored by Sens. Alex Padilla, D-California, Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Patty Murray, D-Washington, Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
Congressman Jared Huffman, D-California is expected to introduce companion legislation in the House.
The bill was introduced as President Joe Biden issued an executive order to create a temporary moratorium on new federal oil and gas drilling leases, including federal waters off the West Coast. Sen. Feinstein’s bill would make the moratorium permanent in federal waters along the West Coast preventing future administrations from overturning it, according to a news release.
“California understands all too well the danger that offshore drilling poses to our oceans and coastal economies,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “President Biden is committed to reducing our carbon emissions, and I applaud his decision to enact a temporary moratorium. This bill takes that action a step further, codifying the proposal so future administrations can’t overturn it. It’s time to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so represents a giant step toward the vital goal of building a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”
California began efforts to block offshore drilling in 1969, when an oil rig off the Santa Barbara coast leaked 3 million gallons of crude into the ocean.
After the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, California blocked all new offshore oil drilling in state waters, protecting our coastal waters up to three miles from the shore. The state reinforced that ban in 1994 by passing the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibited new leasing in state waters.
No new offshore drilling has been allowed in federal waters along the Pacific Coast since 1984. However, the Trump administration released a five-year offshore leasing plan in 2018 that proposed opening up the entire West Coast to new drilling despite widespread opposition in Pacific coast states. That proposal has been blocked by the courts but the threat of drilling will remain until a permanent ban is enacted.
The West Coast Ocean Protection Act would permanently protect these waters that are essential to coastal economies and healthy marine ecosystems. Nearly 70% of Californians opposed offshore drilling, according to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California.
— Mitchell White