SEEC Member Statements on Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Mar 15, 2016 Issues: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Water
SEEC Member Statements on Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Washington D.C. – On March 15th 2016, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced a proposal for the nation's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.

The Proposed Program evaluates 13 potential lease sales in six planning areas – 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three potential sales off the coast of Alaska. The Proposed Program does not schedule any lease sales in Atlantic areas.

SEEC Members released the following statements:

SEEC Co-Chair Gerry Connolly (VA-11): "Today’s decision by the Department of Interior to remove the Atlantic Coast from its 2017-2022 offshore drilling lease plan is a responsible and important victory for all Virginians.

"I’ve repeatedly made the case that drilling off Virginia’s coast poses significant and irreversible consequences to Virginia’s economy, jeopardizes the Defense Department’s presence in the region, and threatens our coastal communities and natural resources.  More troubling, the flawed draft proposal asked Virginians to bear all that risk for less than a few months of national oil and gas supply.

"I appreciate Secretary Jewell’s acknowledgment of these very clear concerns, especially those shared by the Department of Defense, and her willingness to now exclude the Atlantic Coast from future drilling activities."

SEEC Vice-Chair & Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47): "I want to applaud the decision by President Obama and DOI to scrap the possibility of oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters. It has been decades since Atlantic waters were open to new drilling and I believe it should stay that way.

"Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is neither necessary nor wise when you factor in the impacts of industrialization on the pristine shoreline, the potential for a catastrophic spill, and the inevitability of smaller spills, as so recently occurred along the Santa Barbara coast in California.

"In addition, the estimated oil and gas reserves that could be tapped would only satisfy our national consumption for about five to 12 months. By comparison, simply developing the Wind Energy Areas currently designated in the Atlantic OCS could produce up to 16,000 Megawatts of clean renewable electricity – enough to power roughly 4.8 million homes.

"With an expansive and vast wind energy potential—but lacking substantial fossil fuel resources—the Atlantic OCS could be used as a model region to demonstrate a commitment to an energy policy that protects our environment while helping to secure our nation's energy independence."

SEEC Vice-Chair Rep. Steve Israel (NY-03): “I applaud the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for not proceeding with oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast. This is a responsible decision that will ensure the natural resources and vital economic activity that hardworking New Yorkers rely on will not be negatively impacted by drilling.”

SEEC Member & Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03): “I applaud the Obama Administration for sharing the American people’s commitment to protecting our coasts from Big Oil. The President’s proposal to scale back its offshore drilling plan reaffirms his dedication to protecting and conserving the great outdoors.

“Today’s announcement is a big victory for the environment, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the more than 100 coastal communities that fought to protect the land off the Atlantic coast. It’s because of their resilience that the tourism and fishery industries on the Atlantic seaboard will be protected at least through 2022, and hopefully for generations to come.”

SEEC Member Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03): "I applaud the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for carefully considering whether or not to allow oil and gas development off the southern Atlantic Coast.  This revised proposal for the nation’s oil and gas leasing program appropriately responded to input from local leaders, businesses, the Department of Defense, environmental stakeholders, and many others.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia is fortunate to have many unique natural resources and, thankfully, this updated proposal will ensure that our coastline is protected for future generations.  As we move ahead from this decision, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to continue to strengthen our economy and move our nation toward a cleaner energy future.  I know Hampton Roads and our Commonwealth will play a critical role in those efforts.”      

SEEC Member Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03): “I’m pleased to see the administration take this important step to protect coastal environments, marine life and industries that are dependent on the health of Atlantic Ocean watersheds,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Today’s realities of climate change, sea-level rise and ocean acidification – coupled with the advancements and lowering costs of renewable energy – must inform our energy policies. We cannot risk the vitality of our coastal communities and business – like those on the Chesapeake Bay – for development of very limited fossil fuel reserves along the eastern seaboard.”

SEEC Member Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08): “One of the first things I did in Congress was join my fellow Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott in urging Secretary Jewel to block offshore drilling in Virginia. I am so glad that the Administration listened to our concerns and recognized the significant threat drilling poses to our coastline. This is a victory for Virginians, for our coastal economy, and a crucial step forward to reducing America’s carbon footprint.”

SEEC Member Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-02): “We are the caretakers of our oceans, responsible for keeping our waters and shores pristine and healthy. I am proud to hear that the administration has taken this courageous stand to protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling, the prospect of which posed a serious risk to the livelihood and well-being of those living on our coast. This action is an investment in our future, and will preserve our beautiful Atlantic environment for years to come.”

SEEC Member Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05): “I am pleased that the Administration has abandoned their plan to allow new offshore oil drilling in the U.S. southeast coast, as offshore drilling safety continues to be an area of major concern to our environment. We know the health of our ocean is directly tied to the economic prosperity of our communities, which is why we must continue to protect this vital region and understand the significant risks of oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic. I applaud President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their leadership and commitment to protecting some of our most precious resources.”

SEEC Member Rep. David Price (NC-04): “I am very pleased that the Obama Administration has removed the mid-Atlantic from its offshore drilling plan, heeding the calls that I and thousands of North Carolinians have made to abandon its ill-advised proposal. Today’s announcement is a victory for North Carolina’s economy, environment, and quality of life, especially in our coastal communities. The message should be clear -- as we work to build a more secure energy future, we must carefully weigh the environmental risks and, beyond that, shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources that will drive economic growth and preserve our natural treasures for generations to come.”

SEEC Member Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA-03): “I applaud the Administration for taking this important step to protect our oceans and local economies that depend on sustainable fisheries, recreation, and tourism. Instead of expanding investments in fossil fuel development, we should instead be investing in renewable energy resources off our coasts. I have strongly opposed any offshore drilling in the Atlantic, and raised my concerns with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and other senior Administration officials both in person at hearings on the Natural Resources Committee and through letters with my colleagues.  I am grateful that the Administration heeded our concerns in the Atlantic, but will continue working to ensure that the proposed lease sales in the Arctic are similarly rejected in the final plan.”

SEEC Member Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02): “Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens our environment and drives global climate change, and I applaud the Obama Administration for taking the bold -- but necessary -- step of removing the Atlantic Ocean from the proposed 2017-2022 drilling program, and for providing additional protections in the Arctic Ocean. Unfortunately, the plan doesn't go nearly far enough to protect the Arctic Ocean. An oil spill in the Arctic would be an environmental catastrophe that would pollute the ocean ecosystem, harm wildlife, and damage fragile shorelines for decades to come. The Arctic Ocean is too environmentally sensitive to allow for offshore drilling under any circumstances. That's why I have introduced the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act to permanently protect the Arctic Ocean and put it off-limits to any future irresponsible drilling proposals.”

SEEC Member Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-04): “This week, the Obama Administration announced they will not allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic Coast, protecting the Chesapeake Bay for years to come. An oil spill would be devastating for our environment, aquaculture, and tourism economy. Proud of Team Maryland working together in opposition to such drilling, and thankful President Obama and his Administration listened and are looking out for Maryland's coastline. This is a huge victory for protecting our way of life.”