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House Approves Oil Drilling Ban Off Atlantic, Pacific Coasts

September 11, 2019

The House approved legislation Wednesday that would permanently bar drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and extend a moratorium on drilling off Florida's west coast.

ShellNo flotilla participants float near the Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig during demonstrations against Royal Dutch Shell on May 16 2015 in Seattle Washington.Coastal lawmakers from both parties said the bills would protect U.S. coasts from drilling that can pollute crucial waters — and lead to disasters such as the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, said the bills undercut domestic energy security and limit thousands of job opportunities.

Lawmakers approved the Atlantic and Pacific measure 238-189, while the bill to block drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida was approved 248-180. The bills head to the Republican-controlled Senate, where action is unlikely.

The votes come as the Trump administration is reevaluating a plan to sharply expand offshore drilling amid a series of court challenges.

Republican and Democratic governors and lawmakers from coastal states strongly oppose expanded drilling. A federal judge in March ruled against President Donald Trump's executive order to open the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas development, saying Trump had exceeded his authority.

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Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has called the legal challenges "discombobulating" to the administration's plans and said officials are likely to wait for the court cases to be resolved before proceeding with offshore drilling.

Even so, lawmakers who oppose drilling said a legislative fix is needed.

"If we don't act, drilling rigs could soon appear off our beaches," said Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., the lead sponsor of the bicoastal drilling ban. Cunningham won his seat last year in part because of his opposition to drilling off South Carolina's beach-dominated coast.

"The Low Country (near Charleston, S.C.) is a force to be reckoned with, and we stand firm in our opposition to drilling off our shoreline," Cunningham said. Offshore drilling could ruin the state's tourism-based economy, "ruin our vibrant natural resources" and harm the state's "unique way of life," he said.

"Drilling off the coast of Florida would create an industrial coastline less appealing to visitors, hinder our military readiness and adversely affect our environment," said Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., co-sponsor of the Florida bill, which extends a moratorium set to expire in 2022.

Source: Yahoo News

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