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September 12, 2019

US House passes bills banning Atlantic and Pacific offshore drilling

The US House of Representatives passed two bills on 11 September 2019 banning new offshore oil drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts as well as Florida.

By Umar Ali

The US House of Representatives passed two bills on 11 September 2019 banning new offshore oil drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts as well as Florida.

The H.R. 205 bill was sponsored by Florida Republican representative Francis Rooney and permanently bans oil and gas leasing in areas of the Gulf of Mexico close to Florida’s coast. The measure was passed 248 to 180, with the support of about 20 Republicans.

South Carolina Democrat representative Joe Cunningham also sponsored the H.R. 1941 measure to permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, which passed 238 to 189.

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In a statement, Cunningham said: “Today the House took definitive action to ensure there are never any oil rigs off South Carolina’s shores.

“South Carolinians on both sides of the aisle have sent the message loud and clear: we don’t want offshore drilling and we don’t need offshore drilling.

“Now I call on my colleagues in the Senate to heed the call of coastal communities across the country and pass this bill.”

The bills have been opposed by oil and gas organisations, who claim that the bans on offshore drilling increase US dependency on foreign oil.

National Ocean Industries association vice president Tim Charters said: “H.R. 1941 and H.R. 205 should be recognised as what they are: the opening salvo of the so-called Green New Deal.

“Energy moratoria bills are not about limiting emissions or protecting the environment, they are about normalising a shortsighted vision of an America where affordable and reliable energy resources are locked away indefinitely.

“It is no secret that as U.S. oil and natural gas production have increased, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen. American innovation is succeeding at balancing environmental stewardship and energy leadership.

“Congress should reject these bills, which would only outsource energy production to countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia, and instead stand up American energy produced with American values.”

Donald Trump has pursued offshore drilling operations along the Outer Continental Shelf despite criticism from coastal towns and government officials, who claim that drilling along the US coast could cause environmental damage and disrupt local businesses. A coalition of ten environmental groups sued the Trump administration for rolling back offshore safety regulations in June 2019.

The Trump administration has also been criticised for rescinding methane regulation rules in September 2018, which according to estimates from the US Bureau of Land Management could increase methane emissions by 1.78 million tons over a ten-year period.

The House is expected to vote on a third bill sponsored by California Democrat representative Jared Huffman on 12 September 2019, which would prevent the Trump administration from opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to offshore drilling operations.

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