A pair of major steps were announced Wednesday at the top levels of American government to temporarily halt ― then perhaps permanently ban ― new oil and natural gas leases in federal waters off the West Coast.
At a morning ceremony, President Joseph R. Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at confronting climate change, including one that temporarily bans new drilling. It directs the interior secretary to launch a “rigorous review” of existing fossil fuel leasing and permitting programs, and to identify steps to double offshore wind energy production by 2030.
“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis,” Biden told reporters. “We can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes. We feel it. We know it in our bones. And it’s time to act.”
Linda Krop, chief counsel for Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center, which has fought offshore oil development since its founding after the 1969 spill, was happy to hear the news. “We applaud President Biden’s action today to stop oil and gas leasing,” she said. “We need to say no to more offshore drilling and make the transition to renewable energy today. Californians don’t want more oil drilling off our coast.”
According to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, nearly 70 percent of state residents oppose offshore drilling. Since 1984, no new projects have been allowed in federal waters, but in 2018, the Trump administration released a five-year plan to open new leases. The proposal has so far been blocked by the courts.
Just hours after Biden’s announcement, California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off California, Oregon, and Washington. The bill would cement Biden’s nationwide moratorium in the region and prevent future administrations from overturning it.
“The science and public opinion are clear: we should not put our oceans and fisheries, coastal communities, economies, and planet at risk just to enrich the fossil fuel industry,” said Congressmember Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Feinstein’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), among others.
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