The House of Representatives has passed a ban on oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, fulfilling a campaign promise by Charleston freshman Congressman Joe Cunningham who vowed to voters he would protect the coast.
The bill, H.R. 1941, also called the “Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act,” will move to the Republican-controlled Senate where there is less optimism about its future.
Cunningham has pointed out that the issue is bi-partisan, with several Republican East Coast governors, attorneys general, and other Republican elected leaders raising voices in opposition to drilling. But in the House, the vote largely fell along party lines. The bill passed by a vote of 238-189, with only 12 of 197 Republicans supporting it.
“I want to remind my colleagues, if you are a true conservative, if you are a real conservative, be an environmental conservative, too.”
—Congressman Joe Cunningham
Still, the vote represents a remarkable political turnaround from just a few years ago when, for example, several mid- and South Atlantic governors courted drilling.
“The House of Representatives heard loudly and clearly the tens of thousands of coastal voices opposing offshore oil drilling and took action to protect the coast,” said Sierra Weaver, an SELC senior attorney who heads the organization’s anti-drilling efforts. “The Trump administration on the other hand is hearing just a few voices inside the oil industry. We hope the Senate will likewise represent the coastal voters and businesses who have the most to lose from this reckless drilling push.”
Speaking just before the final vote, Cunningham repeated a mantra he’s used to try to convince Republican colleagues to protect the coast from drilling.
“I want to remind my colleagues, if you are a true conservative, if you are a real conservative, be an environmental conservative, too,” he said.
More than 260 counties, towns and cities in East Coast states have passed resolutions against drilling and the seismic blasting that precedes it. The Trump administration has delayed the release of its proposed 5-year oil and gas leasing plan – many believe until after the 2020 election to aid Republican candidates -- but there is nothing to prevent the White House from moving forward at any time.
Watch a highlight from Rep. Cunningham's argument for the bill on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.