Rep. Huffman to Introduce Bills to Protect Pacific & Arctic Oceans From Offshore Drilling

Legislation to Protect U.S. Coasts from New Oil and Gas Drilling

January 27, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced he will reintroduce this week the West Coast Ocean Protection Act and the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act to permanently protect these places from the dangers of offshore oil drilling. This comes as President Biden continues to sign a series of executive orders focused on combatting climate change and moving the United States away from fossil fuels and expanding alternative, renewable energy, including suspension of new offshore leases under the next five-year plan.

“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 Rep. Huffman. “It’s past time that we permanently ban new offshore drilling and show our united commitment to combating climate change and  to give the Pacific Coast and the Arctic Ocean the protections their communities and ecosystems deserve.”

Rep. Huffman’s introduction of the West Coast Ocean Protection Act and the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act comes alongside several other House members' initiatives to protect coastlines from offshore drilling nationwide. Senator Feinstein also leads the West Coast Ocean Protection Act in the Senate, introduced today, with support from all West coast senators.

“California understands all too well the danger that offshore drilling poses to our oceans and coastal economies,” said Senator Feinstein. “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.”

The West Coast Ocean Protection Act would permanently protect the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts by amending the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to prohibit new oil or natural gas leases in each state’s outer continental shelves, ensuring a sustainable future for the millions of jobs and billions of dollars in wages that depend on healthy oceans and coasts and that drive these West coast economies. 

The Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act would make the Arctic Ocean off-limits to any future drilling proposals by prohibiting any new or renewed leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil, natural gas or any other minerals in the Arctic Ocean Planning Areas of the Outer Continental Shelf.

An Oceana analysis released this week finds permanent offshore drilling protections for unleased federal waters could:

  • Prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions: the equivalent of taking every car in the nation off the road for 15 years – or nearly three times the total annual emissions in the U.S. 
  • Prevent over $720 billion in damages to people, property and the environment: comparable to more than the annual GDP of a major city like Washington D.C., Boston or Atlanta. 
  • Safeguard the U.S. clean coast economy, which supports around 3.3 million American jobs and $250 billion in GDP through activities like tourism, recreation and fishing. 
  • Support a transition away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy sources.

What Supporters Are Saying: 

“Drilling along America’s beautiful coastline is inherently dangerous. When oil companies drill, they spill, putting at risk our marine life and coastal communities. We’re glad to see legislation introduced that recognizes this fact, and we're hopeful that the politics of today can make offshore oil production a relic of the past,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans campaign director with Environment America.

“Thank you, Rep. Huffman, for taking immediate action this Congress to protect the Arctic for future generations,” said Leah Donahey, legislative director at Alaska Wilderness League. “The Trump administration may have failed in its attempt to re-open the Arctic Ocean to offshore drilling, but that it tried so hard to undo protections put in place by the Obama administration is an excellent argument for the importance of codifying them into federal law. Offshore oil drilling is inherently risky, doubly so in remote Arctic waters already dealing with increased warming and acidification. The Arctic Ocean is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world and home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears, and we support congressional action to protect these waters from dangerous oil drilling.”

"We're grateful for Representative Huffman's leadership in reintroducing the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act," says Lisa Baraff, program director at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. "Codifying the prohibition on leasing in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas in OCSLA will provide the permanent protections the Arctic Ocean needs and deserves. Oil and gas activities do not belong in arctic waters, period. Clean up of a spill would be near impossible due to harsh and increasingly unpredictable conditions, and local communities depend on healthy waters for traditional foods. We urge Congress to support this bill."   

“Ending Arctic offshore drilling is a no-brainer for anyone serious about climate change and the extinction crisis. There’s simply no way to prevent catastrophic global warming if we don’t keep this oil in the ground. We need to protect the Arctic and its endangered wildlife, not let Big Oil exploit it,” said Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director, Center for Biological Diversity.

“The Arctic Ocean is a highly productive and rich ecosystem that provides essential habitat to a variety of species, including polar bears, bowhead whales, and walrus. Alaskan Native communities have also relied on these waters, and the species they value for subsistence, for thousands of years. As warming temperatures and the loss of sea ice imperil the unique composition of life at the top of the world, offshore drilling would add further, unacceptable risk to this environment and the people who rely on it. The Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act would provide the protection we need for the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas exploration by prohibiting new or renewed oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Ocean, including the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas,” said Margaret Williams, Managing Director, Arctic Program, World Wildlife Fund.

“The public has made it clear – communities oppose offshore drilling and don’t want to hand over our coastal waters to polluters. It is not worth putting local economies and environments at risk from dangerous and dirty fossil fuel extraction. This bill would make significant strides in protecting the West Coast, coastal communities, and fragile ecosystems,” said Valerie Cleland, oceans advocate for the Nature program at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council).

“The Arctic Ocean is a critical subsistence resource for Arctic communities and a national treasure that should not be harmed by oil and gas development. We need to transition away from fossil fuel development that degrades lands and waters for communities and wildlife to sustainable energy solutions that fight climate change. We applaud Rep. Huffman for his leadership in protecting the Arctic Ocean and taking this important step toward addressing the climate crisis,” said Lois Epstein, a licensed engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society.

“Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our lives and livelihoods. Permanently protecting our coasts from dirty and dangerous drilling is a crucial step toward addressing the climate crisis. Oceana applauds Congressman Huffman for reintroducing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act and the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act to the 117th Congress. Coastal communities have long made their voices clear: no more drilling off our coasts. It’s time for Congress to act and permanently protect our oceans and coastal economies from the devastation of oil spills and the growing impacts of climate change. These bills mark a positive step toward ending dirty and dangerous offshore drilling once and for all. Thank you, Congressman Huffman,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director.

“The Arctic is not just important to local indigenous communities who have depended on a pristine environment and rich marine wildlife for thousands of years, but also to people from around the world who continue to depend on a healthy cold Arctic to protect our global climate health.  Oil drilling contributes to climate change, risks marine wildlife and may spoil polar snow with oil spills.  This bill should be a priority for Congress and the Biden Administration,” said Verner Wilson, Senior Oceans Campaigner, Friends of the Earth U.S.

Original cosponsors of the West Coast Ocean Protection Act include Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Rep. Mike Levin  (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Doris O. Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Adam Smith  (D-WA), and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA).

Original cosponsors of the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act include Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-MN), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).