Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 6, 2017

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108,

Republican House Bill Pushes Opening Arctic Ocean to Offshore Drilling

Legislation Would Gut Federal Protection of Public Lands, Oceans

WASHINGTON— The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a legislative hearing Tuesday on a bill that would gut critical federal protections against reckless oil drilling on America’s public lands and oceans. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), seeks to drastically expand offshore and onshore oil drilling and fracking, as well as offshore wind development.

The Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act would rescind Obama administration rules protecting portions of the Arctic Ocean from offshore drilling, fast track seismic oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, and end the president’s ability to create marine national monuments. Bishop’s bill also includes provisions from the Opportunity for the Nation and State to Harness Onshore Resources Act (ONSHORE Act), which would authorize states to regulate and issue oil and gas drilling permits on public lands.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a markup on H.R. 4239, introduced by  Rep. Steve Scalise (R- La.), which includes similar language to Bishop’s bill.

“Bishop’s bill is a truly shocking attack on our government’s ability to protect America’s public lands and oceans from dangerous drilling,” said  Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It gives Big Oil virtually everything it wants, but ordinary Americans would just get more oil spills and climate disruption. Opening the Arctic for drilling would destroy this vulnerable ecosystem and push polar bears and bowhead whales toward extinction.”

Bishop’s bill would emphasize state control and minimize federal regulations and rules. It would redirect revenue that traditionally goes back to the federal government to Alaska, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The bill would also revoke the president’s authority to create and preserve marine national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906. It also establishes offshore wind lease sales and studies in numerous areas including California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

The ONSHORE Act would give states sole authority to issue drilling permits for federal oil and gas development on public lands. It would exempt more than 113 million acres of oil and gas leasing areas from the landmark National Environmental Policy Act, which requires public engagement and scientific evaluation of harms to water, wildlife, the climate and public health. It would also prevent enforcement of federal regulation and guidance for fracking on public lands.

“Extending bad ideas from the ONSHORE Act to our precious oceans is a recipe for disaster for whales, the fishing industry, and coastal communities,” said  Sakashita. “Whether it’s public land or oceans, these areas are part of our natural heritage and should be protected rather than given to the oil and gas industry.”

In the first 10 months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 80 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks go against the wishes of most Americans, since the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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