House OKs oil drilling ban off Pacific, Atlantic coasts

  • Sep 11, 2019
  • Columbian

WASHINGTON — The House approved legislation Wednesday that would permanently bar drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and extend a moratorium on drilling off Florida’s west coast.

Coastal lawmakers from both parties said the bills would protect U.S. coasts from drilling that can pollute crucial waters — and lead to disasters such as the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, said the bills undercut domestic energy security and limit thousands of job opportunities.

Lawmakers approved the Atlantic and Pacific measure 238-189, while the bill to block drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida was approved 248-180. The bills head to the Republican-controlled Senate, where action is unlikely.

The votes come as the Trump administration is reevaluating a plan to sharply expand offshore drilling amid a series of court challenges.

Republican and Democratic governors and lawmakers from coastal states strongly oppose expanded drilling. A federal judge in March ruled against President Donald Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas development, saying Trump had exceeded his authority.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has called the legal challenges “discombobulating” to the administration’s plans and said officials are likely to wait for the court cases to be resolved before proceeding with offshore drilling.