10 • 17 • 2017

House Leaders Propose Offshore Drilling “Wish List” for Industry

By Pete Stauffer

The ASTRO Act would fast track new offshore drilling while putting our coastal communities and economies at risk of another major oil spill.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S waters. And now, Republican leaders in Congress are looking to pave the way by removing critical safety and environmental standards and offering perverse incentives for coastal states to support drilling.   

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing last week on new legislation designed to fast track the expansion of offshore oil drilling. If passed, the Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act (ASTRO Act) would promote industry efforts to bring oil and gas platforms to every U.S. coastline, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic Ocean.               

Here is a list of ASTRO Act’s most concerning provisions:  

  • Authorize the Interior Secretary to offer additional oil and gas lease sales not included in the 5-Year Drilling Program. This would allow new offshore drilling to be approved without public comment or meaningful environmental review.
  • Create perverse incentives for coastal states including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alaska to support new offshore drilling by diverting federal revenues to those states.
  • Roll back key environmental and safety provisions for offshore drilling that were established after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico exposed fundamental problems in the regulatory oversight of the industry.
  • Eliminate presidential authority to withdraw offshore areas from future oil and gas leasing, and revoke existing withdrawals including Arctic Ocean protections that are not in existing sanctuaries or monuments.
  • Eliminate presidential authority to create national monuments under the Antiquities Act, a law that has been used by presidents since the days of Theodore Roosevelt to protect outstanding public lands and waters.

Ironically, the same day of the House subcommittee's hearing, yet another major oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, underscoring the critical need for strong government oversight of offshore drilling. On October 11th, an oil production facility about 40 miles southeast of Louisiana released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil, making the largest spill since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

Fortunately, the Astro Act has a long path to travel in Congress to become a law. As a next step, the bill will be “marked up” by the House Committee on Natural Resources sometime this fall. Committee leaders then intend to bring the bill to a full vote in the House of Representatives, which Surfrider and other offshore drilling opponents are working to prevent.

If you’re outraged that our elected leaders in Congress are trying to give our coasts away to the oil and gas industry, please make your voice heard. Any concerned citizen should contact members of the House Committee on Natural Resources to tell them that the Astro Act will negatively impact our nation’s coastal communities and economies. You can find a list of committee members here.

You can also make a difference by calling your federal representatives in the House and Senate or by completing our action alert which will generate an email to your representatives. The action alert includes talking points which can also be used for phone calls, town hall meetings, or visits with your House and Senate offices.

Finally, the Department of Interior is scheduled to release their Draft Proposed Program for new offshore drilling before the end of the year. The release will launch a public comment period and a series of public hearings to be held in coastal communities affected by the proposal. Stay tuned to Surfrider Foundation’s channels for the latest updates and ways to make your voice heard!

For more resources

Visit Surfrider’s Offshore Drilling campaign page

Access Offshore Drilling campaign resources

Contact your Federal Representatives click here