Press Releases

West Coast Ocean Protection Act would build on Biden’s executive order that temporarily bans federal oil, gas drilling leases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.

President Biden today issued an executive order to create a temporary moratorium on new federal oil and gas drilling leases, including federal waters off the West Coast. Senator Feinstein’s bill would make the moratorium permanent in federal waters along the West Coast, preventing future administrations from overturning it.

The legislation is cosponsored by Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

 Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“California understands all too well the danger that offshore drilling poses to our oceans and coastal economies,” said Senator Feinstein. “President Biden is committed to reducing our carbon emissions, and I applaud his decision to enact a temporary moratorium. This bill takes that action a step further, codifying the proposal so future administrations can’t overturn it. It’s time to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so represents a giant step toward the vital goal of building a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

“Offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks, and the science and public opinion are clear: we should not put our oceans and fisheries, coastal communities, economies, and planet at risk just to enrich the fossil fuel industry,” said Representative Huffman. “It’s past time that we permanently ban new offshore drilling and show our united commitment to combatting climate change and to give the Pacific Coast and the Arctic Ocean the protections their communities and ecosystems deserve.”

California began efforts to block offshore drilling in 1969 when an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara leaked 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, blanketing beaches with a thick layer of oil and killing thousands of marine mammals and birds. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history until the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years later.

After the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, California blocked all new offshore oil drilling in state waters, protecting our coastal waters up to three miles from the shore. The state reinforced that ban in 1994 by passing the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibited new leasing in state waters.

No new offshore drilling has been allowed in federal waters along the Pacific Coast since 1984. However, the Trump administration released a five-year offshore leasing plan in 2018 that proposed opening up the entire West Coast to new drilling despite widespread opposition in Pacific coast states. That proposal has been blocked by the courts but the threat of drilling will remain until a permanent ban is enacted.

The West Coast Ocean Protection Act would permanently protect these waters that are essential to coastal economies and healthy marine ecosystems. Nearly 70 percent of Californians opposed offshore drilling according to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California.