House approves bill to protect coasts from offshore drilling

H.R. 1941 and H.R. 205, which would challenge the Trump administration’s drilling plans, are both moving on to the U.S. Senate.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two proposals aiming to challenge the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans made it out of the House of Representatives on Sept. 11. Both bills aim to “permanently protect” the shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic and Pacific oceans from new offshore drilling activities.

The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) and Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) both made it out of the House and will move on to the U.S. Senate. Both proposals were approved in the lower chamber a couple months after representatives used an appropriations vote to block federal funding for new offshore drilling activities through the 2020 fiscal year.

H.R. 1941 proposes to permanently block offshore oil and gas drilling in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Straits of Florida. H.R. 205 would specifically ban offshore oil and gas drilling off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. A moratorium currently blocking offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf will be in effect until 2022.

Pres. Donald J. Trump proposed to seek new oil and gas opportunities in federal waters, but several states, agencies and organizations lined up to oppose plans. The governors of California, Oregon and Washington, for example, all expressed concern or opposition over the Trump administration’s plans. Also in opposition to Trump’s oil exploration plans were the California Coastal Commission, California Fish and Game Commission and California State Lands Commission.

The pursuit of new offshore drilling opportunities has been a divisive issue in Washington, D.C. (and elsewhere). Proponents of offshore drilling argue the exploration of new oil and gas opportunities not only provides for greater energy independence but also is necessary for national security purposes.

Bans on offshore drilling opportunities in federal waters, proponents continue, would force the United States to become more reliant on foreign oil.

Opponents of new offshore drilling opportunities say spills resulting from offshore oil and gas explorations are harmful to maritime life and threaten jobs.

Policymakers in California adamantly opposed plans for new offshore drilling activities, stating such activities would be harmful to the state’s coastline. California banned offshore drilling activities in state waters after a 1969 oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast.

Trump, in 2017, issued an executive order to pursue new offshore drilling opportunities over a five-year period. The order was later deemed by a federal judge to be unlawful, as it exceeded Trump’s authority as president.

Representatives reportedly approved H.R. 1941 by a 238-189 vote; H.R. 205 cleared the House by a 248-180 vote.

If senators approve both bills then they would move to the White House for signature or veto.

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