Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills banning offshore drilling on the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico. Surprisingly, the House voted to pass them with bipartisan support. The bills will soon head to the Senate.
If enacted into law, these measures will protect our marine environments while undercutting the U.S.’s energy independence.
House support for offshore drilling bans
With unexpected bipartisan support, both bills against offshore drilling passed the House this week.
The first bill — ‘Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019’ — passed 248-180. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), pushed for the bill in response to the alarming number of oil and gas spills in the Gulf of Mexico.
This is indeed a growing issue for the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf is home to the biggest marine oil spill, ever. In 2010, the BP oil spill made headlines, releasing nearly 5 million barrels of oil.
But oil pollution in the gulf has continued since. A less covered, but just as alarming, oil spill has been quietly and continuously pouring oil into the gulf since 2004. Every day, anywhere from 300 to 700 barrels are released from an oil production site off the coast of Louisiana owned by Taylor Energy. Damaged during Hurricane Ivan, the facility’s oil wells will continue to pollute the Gulf until they run dry — which could take the whole century. This spill will soon top the BP oil spill as the largest in history.
Justifiably, Rep. Rooney is eager to prevent future oil spills in the Gulf. In a statement, he said that, “offshore drilling off the coast of Florida would create an industrial coastline less appealing to visitors, hinder our military readiness, and adversely affect our environment.”
The second bill also aims to prevent offshore drilling. The ‘Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act’ sponsored by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) would place a permanent ban on offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It passed 238-189.
“I’ve been clear from the very beginning that our beaches, businesses, and way of life should not be for sale. South Carolinians want nothing to do with offshore drilling and the devastating threat it poses to our vibrant natural resources,” said the Congressman in a statement.
Can these bills become laws?
While these bills faced great support in the House, it’s unlikely they will become law. The Republican-led Senate will most likely reject the bill, and even if it passes the Senate, President Trump has stated that he will veto the bills. The President has historically fought to increase offshore drilling.
Domestic economic and politic security are the main concerns regarding the legislation. Lawmakers have argued that the measures would hinder the U.S.’s energy production and allow global competitors to take the reigns. Accordingly, the U.S. would become more dependent on foreign oil. They also fear the bills would lessen national security. And prohibiting offshore drilling could cause the Land and Water Conservation Fund to lose a great deal of funding from royalties paid by energy companies.
Nonetheless, the environmental consequences of continued drilling far overshadow these concerns. Marine ecosystems, wildlife, drinking water, and coastline communities are all in danger.
But like oil and water, Congress and progress just don’t seem to mix.