(July 5, 2019) Environmental groups and commercial fishing interests are applauding the U.S. House of Representatives for approving amendments to the Interior Appropriations Bill that would delay the Trump Administration’s efforts to open more than 90 percent of federal waters to offshore oil drilling.
Last month, the House Natural Resource Committee approved amendments to HR 3052, the fiscal 2020 Interior, Environment and related agencies funding bill, to block the launch of offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Further, the House also approved an appropriation bill amendment to block funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue permits for seismic air gun blasting in the Atlantic.
Among the environmental groups lobbying for the amendments related to offshore oil and gas exploration was Oceana, which in a press release characterized the practices as completely incompatible with clean coast economies.
Jacob Ross, Oceana field campaigns fellow, expressed relief that Congressman Andy Harris supported the measures, following an outpouring of concerns from constituents.
“Maryland’s businesses and [residents] depend on an oil-free coast and are celebrating Congressman Harris’ decision to stand with them by voting to block offshore drilling and seismic air gun blasting,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan also voiced relief the measures were backed by elected leaders.
“We support Congressman Harris’ position to establish a one-year moratorium on both seismic air gun testing and offshore oil drilling,” he said.
Ross said until Maryland’s coastline is protected by removing the state from consideration for offshore energy exploration, area businesses, fishing interests and real estate agents will continue pushing to maintain the state’s environment.
“Harris understands that the issue of offshore drilling is a priority, one that will continue to bring people together,” he said.
Harris was encouraged to vote in favor of the amendments after learning the concerns expressed by Maryland constituents have been echoed by governors from every state on the east and west coast, more than 360 coastal municipalities and roughly 2,200 bi-partisan local, state and federal officials.
Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director, said in a press release the efforts to stifle oil and gas drilling will be resumed in the Senate.
“For nearly three decades, Congress blocked offshore drilling through appropriations measures,” she said. “Now, we’re counting on Congress to enact offshore drilling moratoriums again.”
Hoskins said the affirmative vote to stymie offshore drilling highlighted bi-partisan opposition to a dirty and potentially dangerous proposal.
“President Trump’s radical offshore drilling plan threatens our fishing, tourism and recreation industries that rely on a clean and healthy ocean,” she said. “It’s now up to the Senate to follow in the House’s footsteps to protect our coast.”
Oceana officials also noted about 47,000 businesses and around half a million fishing families oppose offshore oil and gas drilling.
In Maryland, Oceana said the advent of offshore oil or gas drilling would threaten 96,000 jobs and $6 billion in gross domestic product.
Additionally, the endeavors could negatively affect Assateague Island, which attracts more than 2 million visitors annually, while contributing nearly $100 million to the state’s economy.
Meehan said Ocean City will continue to oppose offshore drilling as it has dating back to the 1970s.
“The protection of the natural habitat, our beaches and fisheries and mammal populations off our shore has been, and will continue to be, a priority of the mayor and council,” he said.