Ocean Advocates Applaud Biden Administration’s Actions on Ocean Protection

January 27, 2021

Moratorium on federal offshore oil and gas drilling offers opportunity to fix broken leasing system, build thriving coastal economies, tackle climate crisis

California advocates are celebrating today’s announcement from the Biden administration to halt oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. Advocates with the Protect the Pacific Coalition cite the need to protect the U.S. coastal economy from the risks of oil spills, the growing urgency of addressing the climate crisis, and the potential for healthy oceans to serve as a powerful climate solution.

Trump’s initial proposal from January 2018 would have opened California, Oregon and Washington to new offshore oil and gas leases for the first time in more than 30 years, which sparked a bipartisan wave of opposition across the region and around the country.

“Clean beaches and a healthy ocean are critical drivers of our coastal economies, supporting over 2.6 million jobs and generating roughly $180 billion in GDP,” said Vipe Desai, founding member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast (BAPPC). “Coastal businesses are already reeling from the pandemic and need reassurances that we won’t be dealing with oil spills in the future. The only way to guarantee that is to put the Trump vision for our coasts behind us, and move forward with no new leasing.”

BAPPC represents a broad range of industries–technology, tourism, seafood, real estate, and local chambers of commerce, among others–united in a shared belief that a healthy coast is vital to their bottom lines, as well as the lifestyles of their customers and staff. They recently joined their counterparts on the Atlantic Coast in a letter to the Biden administration about the importance of ending offshore drilling and advancing renewable energy.

Business leaders are among a diverse group of California stakeholders including tribal and indigenous-led organizations, environmental advocates, scientists, and coastal residents who have rallied together to protect the coast from offshore drilling.

“As the original stewards and caretakers of these lands and waters, we are absolutely against drilling in our coastal waters, and oppose the proposed sale of leases off the coast of our traditional and unceded homelands,” said Maura Sullivan, Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, Ocean Protectors Program Director, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples. “The drilling that is there is a constant threat and reminder that colonization is an ongoing event for California coastal Native nations. The taking of oil is a violent act. The extraction and movement of oil to process is dangerous for us and our children. We refuse to stand by as the ongoing violence of the fossil fuel industry tries to continue to profit off our last wild and healthy sacred places.”

States and local governments have said they do not want offshore drilling. For example, California lawmakers passed legislation (SB 834 and AB 1775), banning the development of new pipelines, platforms, and other infrastructure within state waters needed to bring new offshore oil and gas to shore to be processed.

“We need to say no to more offshore drilling and make the transition to renewable energy today,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which has fought offshore oil development since its founding after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. “Californians don’t want more oil drilling off our coast. In addition to the risks of oil spills we cannot take any action that will exacerbate climate change.”

Almost 100 cities and counties across California, representing more than half of the state’s population, have taken action to publicly oppose fossil fuel development in the Pacific. Polling data shows that a majority of voters in California are opposed to offshore drilling.

The Pacific Coast has been closed to new drilling for decades, with the last federal lease sales taking place in 1984. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, tourism, recreation and fishing along California’s coast generate over $23.7 billion dollars a year and support over 429,000 jobs in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, tackle shops, charter boats, and other local businesses.

The following are statements from California coastal protection advocates in response to today’s announcement:

“Offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that pollutes the ocean, threatens coastal communities, and exacerbates climate change. We applaud today’s historic action by the Biden administration and call on Congress to permanently protect all U.S. coastlines from oil and gas development.”

Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation

“We welcome this bold action. The Biden administration clearly understands the necessity of ultimately enacting permanent protection from dangerous offshore drilling to help address the climate crisis and to protect our nation’s sensitive fisheries and vital coastal economies.”

Richard Charter, Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation

“The ocean conservation community is not going to abide by the vindictive behavior of a has-been Administration’s attempt to destroy our coastal waters with last-minute oil and gas leases. With the election of the Biden/Harris ticket and the possibility of still flipping the senate our community will rise together and beseech this more ethical administration to put an end to offshore oil and gas exploration once and for all. Ending the offshore drilling program must be a key element of Biden’s Climate Action plan. We cannot continue to put the fossil fuel industry ahead of all others. We must, instead protect and leverage the industries that fuel most coastal community economies, industries like tourism and fishing.”

Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director, Save Our Shores

“Dirty offshore oil drilling threatens our vibrant coastal communities which play a key role in our valuable coastal economies and tourism and recreation industries. We stand against offshore oil drilling and encourage the Biden administration to permanently protect our coasts. We need to be moving towards clean renewable jobs, while protecting our fragile coastal ecosystems.”

Morgan Patton, Executive Director, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin

“The Biden administration must fulfill their promise to end the federal oil and gas leasing program once and for all. Offshore drilling and fossil fuel production are relics of the past, and the United States public is ready to embrace new, clean, renewable technologies to realize our energy needs.”

Annalisa Batanides Tuel, Policy and Advocacy Manager, Turtle Island Restoration Network

“The public wants no part of industrializing coastal communities and threatening fragile marine ecosystems. With this important first step of pausing new oil and gas leasing, the Biden-Harris administration is clearly listening to the people who bear the burden of this dirty and harmful industry.”

Alex Adams, Senior Director Federal Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council

“President Biden has an incredible opportunity to act on climate change and protect our coasts once and for all by closing the chapter on future offshore oil leasing. If enacted, President Biden’s campaign commitments to tackle the climate crisis and protect our waters from new offshore oil drilling will ensure we build back better, keep coastal economies safe from oil disasters and support a transition to clean, renewable energy.”

Diane Hoskins, Campaign Director, Oceana

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