WASHINGTON – Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski joined other East Coast senators Wednesday to reintroduce the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act on Earth Day in an effort to block offshore drilling in the Atlantic.
This week also marked the fifth year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which serves as a reminder of the possible consequences of offshore drilling. The spill is recognized as the worst in U.S. history, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said, “We’re introducing the COAST Act to help protect our local economies, marine life, the health of our shore residents and to tell Big Oil that America’s coastline is not for sale.”
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said, “Not only no, but hell no to offshore drilling.”
The legislation is being sponsored by the group of East Coast Democratic senators in opposition of the Obama administration’s plans for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, announced in January.
The administration’s proposal would allow oil companies to lease areas off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia for oil and gas drilling. These states have been designated as part of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.
Proponents of the COAST Anti-Drilling Act argue that offshore drilling would introduce threats that could irreversibly damage the state of the Atlantic Ocean and cause a ripple effect that would destroy the environment and local economies.
“Oil spills do not respect state boundaries, making the risks of drilling off the Atlantic Coast far greater than the rewards,” Cardin said. “The Chesapeake Bay, which generates more than $1 trillion in economic activity for the mid-Atlantic region, does not need yet another threat to its future health and vitality.”
“I am absolutely opposed to offshore drilling and always will be,” Mikulski said. “Offshore drilling can devastate the environment, harming our unique and fragile coastline and wreaking havoc on the coastal communities whose economies rely heavily on tourism.”
Environmentally sensitive areas such as Chesapeake Bay, the Jersey Shore, and Long Island Sound would suffer from an oil spill, according to proponents of the legislation.
In response to a question at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday, Menendez said there has been no recent interaction with the Obama Administration on this subject.
The House of Representatives led by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., planned to introduce companion legislation to the COAST Anti-Drilling Act Wednesday.
Cardin and Mikulski were joined by Menendez, Whitehouse and Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in sponsoring the Senate version.