Huffman, Feinstein Introduce Bill to Permanently Ban Offshore Drilling Along West Coast

January 24, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.

“Offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks, and the science and public opinion are clear: we should not put our oceans and fisheries, coastal communities, economies, and planet at risk just to enrich the fossil fuel industry,” said Representative Huffman. “The world is transitioning to a green, clean energy future – and it is past time that we ban new offshore drilling and shift our investments to safe, renewable energy sources. Californians have experienced first-hand the environmental disasters caused by oil spills, and we are ready to put an end to that risk once and for all by permanently protecting our coasts.”

“The era of offshore oil and gas production in the Pacific is coming to a close,” said Senator Feinstein. “We’re in the midst of a historic transition to cleaner energy sources, including offshore wind. Offshore drilling and the risks it poses to the environment and our robust ocean and coastal economies are not part of that clean-energy future. It’s time to permanently ban new drilling leases in federal waters off the West Coast.”

California began efforts to block offshore drilling in 1969 when an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara leaked 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, blanketing beaches with a thick layer of oil and killing thousands of marine mammals and birds. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history until the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years later. 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.

In October 2021, a ruptured pipeline from an existing oil well spilled more than 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto the beaches of Orange County. Despite numerous alarms, operators allowed oil to flow from the leak for over 14 hours. The spill covered more than 8,000 acres of the ocean’s surface and required more than a week of cleanup while local businesses and fisheries suffered.

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 was 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 percent of Californians opposed offshore drilling according to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The bill is supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Oceana, Sierra Club, Environment America, Environment Washington, Environment Oregon, Environment California, Surfrider Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Surf Industry Members Association, WILDCOAST, Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast, Paddle For Peace, Ocean Conservancy, and the National Aududon Society.

“Surfrider Foundation applauds the introduction of the West Coast Protection Act. We urge Congress to pass this and other legislation to protect U.S. waters from new offshore drilling. Stopping new offshore drilling will protect our nation’s environment, communities and businesses. The bill is also a key action to address climate change,” said Pete Stauffer, ocean protection manager, Surfrider Foundation.

“We can’t continue business as usual. With a climate and biodiversity crisis to address, and a clean energy economy taking off, this is no time to pursue a backward-looking energy strategy. The public has made it clear – communities oppose new offshore drilling and seismic blasting and don’t want to hand over our coastal waters to polluters. This bill would make significant strides in protecting the West Coast, coastal communities, and fragile ecosystems,” said Valerie Cleland, senior ocean advocate, NRDC.

“From soaring cliffs to sunny beaches, the Pacific coast is truly a national treasure. Sadly, this treasure has been threatened far too often, for far too long, with spills and pollution from offshore drilling. We’re glad to see the West Coast Ocean Protection Act reintroduced. We need to make ocean drilling a thing of the past,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect our Oceans campaign director, Environment America.

“Dirty and dangerous offshore drilling worsens climate change, threatens marine life, and results in environmentally and economically devastating oil spills. Oceana applauds Senator Feinstein and Congressman Huffman for reintroducing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act which makes important progress toward permanently protecting all our coasts from new offshore drilling. Ending new offshore drilling is a crucial step toward addressing the climate crisis. Our oceans can be part of the solution as we expedite our transition away from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy like responsibly-sited offshore wind,” said Diane Hoskins, Climate and Energy campaign director, Oceana.

“Communities on the West Coast have been fighting for a long time to be free of the fossil fuel industry’s grip. LCV thanks Congressman Huffman and Senator Feinstein for reintroducing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas leasing off the West Coast and prevent a massive 19 billion tons of greenhouse gases from fueling the climate crisis. Offshore drilling continues to pollute coastal waters, with devastating consequences for the economy and public health of coastal communities already bearing the brunt of Big Oil’s greed. This bill is a step towards a just, clean, renewable energy future,” said America Fitzpatrick, conservation program director, League of Conservation Voters.

“We thank Senator Feinstein and Congressman Huffman for championing this effort to protect our coasts from the environmental disruption of offshore oil and gas extraction. Offshore drilling puts wildlife in danger, threatens the health of coastal communities, and prolongs our reliance on climate-damaging fossil fuels. Congress needs to listen to the local communities and millions of Americans who have spoken out against offshore drilling and pass the West Coast Protection Act,” said Athan Manuel, director of Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program.

“Put simply, there is no room for more offshore drilling in a clean energy future. Rather we need to prioritize transformative and responsible actions that will move us away from fossil fuel production to renewable energy. Ocean Conservancy is excited to see the re-introduction of this critical legislation that would permanently ban risky offshore drilling on the West Coast, protecting our ocean health, and fostering the transition to cleaner energy sources. We look forward to working with Congress to advance this legislation,” said Jeff Watters, Vice President of External Affairs at Ocean Conservancy.

In the House, the legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Ed Case (HI-01), Judy Chu (CA-28), Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Anna Eshoo (CA-16), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), William Keating (MA-09), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted. W. Lieu (CA-36), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Scott Peters (CA-50), Katie Porter (CA-47), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-39), Mike Thompson (CA-04), Jill Tokuda (HI-02) and Juan Vargas (CA-52.).

In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).