Memos & Research

MEMO: California oil disaster spurs growing congressional momentum for retaining a permanent offshore drilling ban in the Build Back Better Act

Oct 8, 2021

Alex Taurel,

To: Interested Parties
From: Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director, LCV
Date: October 8, 2021
Re: California oil disaster spurs growing congressional momentum for retaining a permanent offshore drilling ban in the Build Back Better Act

Members of Congress across the country are reacting to the disastrous oil spill off the coast of California over the weekend, which has leaked over 126,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean — devastating for the already fragile ecosystem and wildlife, local communities, and local fishing and food economy. Extreme weather exacerbated by the fossil fuel industry has wreaked havoc on infrastructure, including offshore drilling pipelines — fifty-five oil spills were reported within two weeks after Hurricane Ida —  which is prompting the House Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing and mark-up next week to consider and address problems associated with offshore oil and gas activity. The California spill is the latest reminder that offshore drilling puts at risk our ocean, marine life, and beaches, and it harms communities already on the frontlines of the climate crisis, who are historically communities of color and communities with low wealth. 

Congress must take action to pass the Climate Test by putting the country on a clear path to cutting in half planet-warming pollution by 2030, and it must retain offshore oil and gas related provisions in the final Build Back Better Act — such as the ban on new federal oil and gas leasing in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico that is included in the House bill — to invest in healthy coastal economies by helping to prevent future disasters. That’s the message coming from a large and growing number of senators and representatives–from California to Florida and New Jersey to Washington–who are eager to act on climate at the scale that science and justice require and protect our coasts from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling: 

  • Reps. Levin (CA-49), Lowenthal (CA-47), and 77 other Members of Congress: We urge you to retain the offshore oil and gas related provisions in the Build Back Better Act, including the provision that invests in the long-term protection of coastal communities by ending new federal oil and gas leasing off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. These provisions reduce the financial risks that existing policies create for the federal government while raising significant revenues and protecting taxpayers.” [Joint letter to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer]
  • California Coastal Caucus Chairs Reps. Brownley (CA-26) and Lieu (CA-33): “The majority of Californians oppose offshore drilling and with aging infrastructure, we’re likely to see more oil spills in the future if we don’t make a change now.  We need to end offshore drilling, which is why we, as the cochairs of the California Coastal Caucus, are urging our colleagues to support  a federal ban on offshore drilling.” [Joint statement]
  • Senators Feinstein (CA), Padilla (CA), Wyden (OR), Merkley (OR), and Cantwell (WA): 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.” [Joint letter to Leader Schumer and Chairman Manchin
  • Rep. Porter (CA-45): “Big Oil’s offshore drilling puts the health of our communities, our local economies, and our planet at risk. Cleaning up this spill is not enough; we need to stop these disasters from happening in the first place.” 
  • Rep. Barragán (CA-44): “We’ve got to make sure to put an end to our dependence on fossil fuels. Put an end to this offshore drilling. We’ve got to stop it to protect the planet and our community.” 
  • Rep. Khanna (CA-17): “The devastating oil spill in California reminds us why the federal government and the state must end all leasing for offshore fossil fuel extraction and instead create jobs by investing in safe, clean energy solutions.” 
  • Rep. Jayapal (WA-07): “It’s time to transition to clean energy — period.” 
  • Rep. Cárdenas (CA-29): “The Huntington Beach oil spill is a devastating reminder that offshore drilling is harming our coastal communities and exacerbating the climate crisis. Our future depends on continued investments into clean and renewable energy.” 
  • Sen. Gillibrand (NY-sen): “Offshore oil and gas drilling is a threat to our environment, to wildlife, and to local businesses and communities. It’s time to permanently ban it.” 
  • Sen. Menendez (NJ-sen): “This is EXACTLY why I’ve been fighting so hard to #KillTheDrill. We can’t let this happen to our Jersey Shore.” 
  • Rep. Pallone (NJ-06): “There’s simply no reason to put vulnerable coastal communities & ocean ecosystems at risk with dangerous oil drilling. That’s why I’m pushing Congress to ban offshore drilling in the Atlantic & pass my COAST Anti-Drilling Act.” 
  • Chair Castor (FL-14): “Offshore drilling is making the climate crisis worse and threatening our coastal economies and way of life. It’s time to protect our coasts and permanently end offshore drilling with legislation like my bipartisan Florida Coastal Protection Act.”
  • Rep. Soto (FL-9):Our thoughts are with Americans in Southern California as they face a major oil spill and ecological disaster. We must #ActOnClimate, decarbonize our economy and help America #BuildBackBetter!”  
  • Rep. Quigley (IL-05): “The oil spill in Southern California confirms what we already know: offshore drilling is dirty & dangerous. It’s time to #EndOffshoreDrilling and permanently #ProtectOurCoast.”

Offshore drilling harms coastal economies and communities, wildlife, and our climate. With the Build Back Better Act, Congress has the opportunity to make investments to prevent future oil spill disasters, act on climate at the scale that science and justice require, create good-paying jobs, and reduce costs for families. We strongly support the calls by a large and growing segment of Congress to invest in coastal communities by retaining provisions in the final Build Back Better Act to ban new offshore oil and gas leasing in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico.” – Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director, LCV

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