Pallone, Huffman, 72 Members of Congress Send Bipartisan Letter Calling on Administration to Abandon Drilling in Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

Sep 28, 2016

Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02) led a bipartisan letter from 74 members of Congress asking President Obama to fully withdraw both the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean from any future offshore oil and gas leasing. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act provides the President authority to protect sections of the outer continental shelf from energy development leasing.

“Protecting the Atlantic and Arctic coastlines against future oil and gas extraction would send a powerful signal to the world that the United States is fully committed to delivering on our climate commitments,” the letter states.  “It would help defend our communities and future generations against the health, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change and the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill.”

Leading environmental organizations voiced strong support for the letter.

“No president has done more to protect our climate and our oceans.  Now President Obama has an incredible opportunity to deepen his climate and ocean conservation legacy by permanently protecting the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from risky offshore drilling.  We thank Representatives Pallone and Huffman for leading this effort and hope the president will seize this opportunity.” –Alex Taurel, Deputy Legislative Director, League of Conservation Voters

"This is a President who takes bold action on climate.  In this homestretch, he should use this authority to preserve these pristine and publicly-owned waters, and protect our coastal communities from drilling for all time." - Franz Matzner, Director, Beyond Oil Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council

 

"The only sensible amount of offshore drilling for our oceans and climate is none at all. More drilling would only deepen our reliance on dirty energy at a time when scientists say we must transition off fossil fuels completely by mid-century to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. We applaud Representative Pallone and every other member of Congress today who has called on President Obama to take Arctic and Atlantic oil and gas drilling off the table forever." - Rachel Richardson, Stop Drilling Program Director, Environment America

 

"Drilling off our coasts anywhere is a threat to coastal communities and to our climate. The only way for America to meet its global climate commitments is to protect our waters, continue the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy, and leave dirty fuels where they belong -- in the ground." -Athan Manuel, Director of Sierra Club's Lands Protection program

Congressman Pallone and Congressman Huffman have long been leaders in the fight against offshore drilling and proponents of renewable energy.

Prior to the 2010 BP oil spill, Congressman Pallone introduced legislation to ban new exploration and offshore drilling, and to hold oil companies fully accountable for costs of spill-related damagers. Earlier this year, Pallone sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking for the Atlantic Ocean to be protected from oil and gas development in the Draft Proposed Plan of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The Obama Administration then removed the Atlantic lease sales from this Program but the area remains at risk of leasing in future Programs.

In April of 2015, Congressman Pallone and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act to ban oil and gas exploration, development, and production in the Atlantic Ocean. Offshore drilling is a threat to New Jersey’s coastal communities, especially beaches, which are the primary driver of a tourism economy that supports 312,000 jobs and generates $38 billion in economic activities for the state each year. It can also damage important commercial and recreational fisheries. 

In September of 2015, Congressman Huffman introduced the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2015, which would prohibit new or renewed oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Ocean Planning Areas of the Outer Continental Shelf.  It would stop new leasing for the exploration, development or production of oil, natural gas or any other minerals in the Arctic Ocean and not allow for any renewal of existing leases.

And then in May of 2016, Congressmen Huffman and Pallone sent a bipartisan letter urging the Department of Interior to take the Arctic Ocean off the table to future oil and gas drilling.

 

September 28, 2016

 

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our gratitude for your leadership in confronting one of the greatest challenges facing our country and the world: climate change.  In keeping with that record of achievement, we respectfully request that you use your authority under section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to fully withdraw both the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean from any future offshore oil and gas leasing.

The United States must continue to lead the fight against global warming not only by committing to clean energy alternatives, but also by closing the door on new, dangerous and environmentally harmful fossil fuel extraction.  Protecting the Atlantic and Arctic coastlines against future oil and gas extraction would send a powerful signal to the world that the United States is fully committed to delivering on our climate commitments.  It would help defend our communities and future generations against the health, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change and the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill.  Plain and simple, we do not need and we cannot afford to expand drilling into these sensitive areas. 

As you know, section 12(a) gives the President unilateral authority to protect sections of the outer continental shelf from future energy development leasing.  You and your predecessors have used section 12(a) to protect hundreds of millions of marine acres, some for defined time periods and others in perpetuity.  Notably absent from section 12(a) is authority for a successor president to undo a permanent withdrawal.  We believe that forever withdrawing the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans from leasing, reflecting the strong public interest in stemming climate change and protecting our coasts, is a particularly appropriate use of the statute’s broad and clear terms. 

Taking this action would be consistent with the vision of drastically reducing U.S. emissions outlined in the Climate Action Plan.  Fragile marine ecosystems in both oceans – and the businesses that rely on them – would also be crippled by a future environmental disaster resulting from a blowout or other failure offshore.  Oil and gas from the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean – once developed – would not reach consumers for multiple decades, so opening up leases in those areas would not meet any immediate energy needs.  But drilling would immediately put at risk a significant commercial fishery along the Atlantic seaboard.  Finally, removing any prospect of drilling in these sensitive areas would demonstrate to the world that the United States is dedicated to delivering on our climate commitments by preventing actions that would lock in future emissions and send a powerful market signal that clean energy is the better investment.  Beyond these serious environmental concerns, in March, the Pentagon strongly opposed drilling off the Atlantic coast because it could impact military maneuvers and the Navy’s ability to defend our coasts.  For a host of reasons, permanently protecting both Oceans from fossil fuel development is in the best interests of the United States and the world.

We know that we can avoid long-term offshore fossil fuel leasing commitments because there are far better alternatives available.  Over the course of your two terms in office, thanks in large part to your leadership, renewable energy has become more efficient, more reliable, and less expensive.  Those developments have supported new and exciting jobs and also reduced pollution in the process.

We share your vision for a cleaner energy future, and we applaud you for the bold action you have already taken to protect future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.  We encourage you to consider our request to take another critical step in permanently protecting the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean from future fossil fuel development.  Doing so would be in keeping with the legacy you have worked so consistently to develop.  Thank you for your consideration of this important request.  We look forward to hearing from you.

                                                                                                             

Sincerely,

 

______________________________________________________________________________

Members who signed onto the letter can be found below:

Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02), William R. Keating (MA-09), James R. Langevin (RI-02), Michael M. Honda (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), David N. Cicilline (RI-02), Doris O. Matsui (CA-06), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-09), Alan s. Lowenthal (CA-47), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jared Polis (CO-02), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), José E. Serrano (NY-15), Sam Farr (CA-20), Katherine M. Clark (MA-05), Lois Capps (CA-24), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Brendan Boyle (PA-13), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Diana DeGette (CO-01), John K. Delaney (MD-06), Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Albio Sire (NJ-08), Ted Deutch (FL-22), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Adam B. Schiff (CA-28), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-08), Beto O’ Rourke (TX-16), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-32), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Steve Israel (NY-03), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Donna F. Edwards (MD-04), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Steven Cohen (TN-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Donald S. Beyer (VA-08), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (GA-04), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18), Gregory Meeks (NY-05)