Senators: Include West Coast Offshore Drilling Ban in Reconciliation Bill

Senators renew their call for drilling ban after estimated 126,000 gallons of oil spilled off coast of California

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today called on Senate leadership to include the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the West Coast, in the Senate version of the budget reconciliation bill.

The West Coast Ocean Protection Act, along with a similar ban off the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf coasts, was included in a House version of the budget reconciliation bill.

 “In light of the devastating oil spill this month off the coast of California, we urge you to include in the budget reconciliation bill our West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington,” the senators wrote.

The senators continued: “Budget reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to construct the energy policy of the future and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In taking advantage of this opportunity, we must reflect the will of our constituents and permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so would help build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

Full text of the letter follows:

October 6, 2021

The Honorable Chuck Schumer

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Joe Manchin

Chair, Energy and Natural Resources Committee

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Leader Schumer and Senator Manchin,

            In light of the devastating oil spill this month off the coast of California, we urge you to include in the budget reconciliation bill our West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

            A similar prohibition on oil and gas leasing was included in Section 70804 of the House Natural Resources Committee’s title of the budget reconciliation bill and its implementation is estimated to cost $50 million. Given the impacts of oil drilling on communities along the Pacific Coast, this significant priority has a small price tag and is analogous to the way Republicans used their 2017 budget reconciliation bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

            The West Coast Ocean Protection Act has been introduced every Congress since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010. Our states have unfortunately suffered numerous oil spills in recent history. For example, in 1991, over 900,000 gallons of oil spilled in Washington State; in 1969, over 4 million gallons of crude oil spilled in Santa Barbara, California; and, just this month, 126,000 gallons of oil spilled in Huntington Beach, California. In 2018 and 2019, the amount of oil spilled per barrel produced on the Outer Continental Shelf increased sixfold compared with the previous two years.

            Any community that has been impacted by an oil spill in the last several decades is familiar with the tragic deaths of thousands of marine wildlife as well as the closure of local beaches. As clean energy becomes a larger share of the West Coast power supply, the trade-offs associated with offshore oil drilling are only becoming increasingly unnecessary and destructive.

            Budget reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to construct the energy policy of the future and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In taking advantage of this opportunity, we must reflect the will of our constituents and permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so would help build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

Sincerely,

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