This week, Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) helped pass three historic bills in the House of Representatives to block future offshore drilling efforts: H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which blocks new offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines; H.R. 205, the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act, which blocks new offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; and H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, which repeals a provision of the 2017 Republican tax bill that opened up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development. All three pieces of legislation passed with bipartisan support.
“Offshore drilling for oil and gas has the potential to be disastrous to our marine ecosystems and to our coastal economies -- and will only exacerbate the climate crisis facing our planet,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “The fishing, tourism, and recreation industries support more than 86,000 jobs and generate $4.8 billion in GDP here in Virginia. These bipartisan bills will protect our natural resources, support local jobs, and ensure that coastal communities in Virginia and around the country continue to thrive.”
In January 2018, the Trump administration published a draft offshore leasing plan that would open more than 90% of America’s oceans to oil and gas development. This would expose coastlines throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to the dangers of oil spills and environmental degradation resulting from seismic airgun blasts and drilling.
The iconic coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was opened to oil and gas development through a provision attached to the 2017 Republican-passed Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The ANWR coastal plain is a 1.5-million-acre region that provides important denning habitats for polar bears and calving grounds for caribou, hosts more than 200 species of migratory birds each year, and is significant to the Gwich’in people of Alaska for their way of life.
The Trump administration’s offshore leasing plan has been condemned by both Democrat and Republican coastal state governors, including Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and has raised serious concerns by the Department of Defense, which argued that expanded drilling could impact military training and readiness operations.
In April, Rep. Wexton joined every Democratic member of the Virginia House delegation in sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, urging him to exclude Virginia from the Department’s plans for offshore oil and gas leasing.
More than 4.7 million Virginians live along the commonwealth’s 3,300 miles of coastline. The coastal economy supports an estimated 86,000 jobs and generates approximately $4.8 billion in GDP to Virginia’s economy.