In a letter sent to Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Thursday, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47), along with more than 100 members of Congress, urged the secretary to keep the Pacific and Atlantic oceans off limits to new offshore drilling operations.
The letter comes as a response to President Donald Trump’s April 28 executive order which directs the secretary to review the United States’ offshore drilling and oil leases, in an effort to create an “America-first offshore drilling strategy.”
“The executive order on offshore drilling basically said: drill baby drill, and while you’re at it, make the drilling less safe.” Lowenthal, whose district includes Long Beach, said in a statement. “However, we have over a hundred members of Congress, from both parties and from across the country, saying that is not the direction we want to go. It is crucial to make an early and strong statement that President Trump and Secretary Zinke should keep the Atlantic and Pacific coasts protected, not go backwards.”
Trump’s order instructs the secretary to potentially restart the oil and gas lease sale process, which was previously halted until 2022 by former President Obama under the direction of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
In the letter, Lowenthal and his colleagues note that fishing and tourism are a $63 billion industry supporting 1.3 million jobs on the east coast and a $26 billion industry supporting 536,000 jobs on the west coast. These industries would be directly threatened by any offshore drilling accidents, the letter argues, citing the 1969 Santa Barbara oil blowout which killed thousands of birds and marine mammals and left much of the Southern California coastline blackened from oil.
“We do not believe that new oil and gas exploration or production activity in the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf is compatible with the sustainable coastal economies on which so many of our constituents and communities depend,” the letter reads.
However, Trump’s executive order argues that drilling off the U.S. coast will reduce reliance on foreign energy and strengthen national security.
Lowenthal’s letter is a bipartisan effort led by Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mark Sanford (R-SC). Other notable signatories include Representative John Lewis (D-GA), Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-43) and Doris Matsui (D-6).
Lowenthal is also part of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees legislation related to fisheries and wildlife, as well as the subcommittees on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Energy and Mineral Resources and Water Resources and Environment, among others.