The Tide is Turning on Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic


Summertime sunset in Ocean City, Maryland.

McKenzie Warfield

The Biden administration freezes new drilling leases across the country

In recent years, the prospect of expanding offshore drilling into the Atlantic Ocean was met with public outcry, opposition from local and state governments, and numerous legal challenges. Fortunately, the Biden Administration has temporarily put a hold on new leases for offshore drilling in the U.S. While there currently are no offshore drilling leases proposed for the Atlantic, this is a promising signal that the Biden Administration takes seriously the risks of offshore drilling and threat of climate change.

Drilling off the Atlantic coast is simply a bad deal for the Chesapeake Bay, which is inextricably connected with the waters of the Atlantic. A major spill would not only kill wildlife and poison the environment, it would also be devastating for businesses based on seafood, outdoor recreation, and tourism. Tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland and Virginia would be at risk, and billions of dollars in each state's economy. Even normal day-to-day drilling operations release pollution into the air and water.

For four decades, CBF has taken an uncompromising stand against the expansion of oil and gas drilling in our region. Rather than increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, we should continue moving towards renewable energy.

Fortunately, the tide has turned on offshore drilling in the four years since the Trump Administration made it a pressing concern. Following that course provides an encouraging example of how people can persevere and triumph in a fight to protect natural resources.

In 2017 the Trump Administration proposed a five-year plan that would open the Atlantic to drilling, reversing an Obama-era moratorium on offshore drilling.

Overwhelming public opposition followed. Dozens of cities and counties in Maryland and Virginia passed resolutions against offshore drilling. CBF petitions and action alerts against offshore drilling garnered 2,458 signatures. Both Maryland and Virginia state legislators passed policies against drilling in the Atlantic, and the governors of both states publicly opposed drilling. Most members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia opposed drilling in the Atlantic, including in a Senate bill and legislation that passed the House of Representatives.

The strong public opinion against offshore drilling in the Atlantic was impossible to ignore. In a campaign rally in the fall of 2020 in Hampton Roads, former President Trump promised to prohibit offshore drilling in Virginia, following similar bans for several other states. That came after a 2019 court decision invalidated proposals to open up parts of the Arctic and the Atlantic oceans to drilling, though the Administration appealed the decision in an effort to move drilling forward.

We're not completely in the clear yet, and let's remember that offshore drilling proponents have eyed the Atlantic for decades. But with plans for Atlantic drilling on hold for now and President Biden taking a serious look at the practice, we can call this a major advocacy win. Moving ahead, CBF and partners look forward to working with the Biden Administration to prevent threats from drilling and spills off our coast.

Kenny Fletcher 90x110

Kenny Fletcher

Virginia Media & Communications Coordinator, CBF

Issues in this Post

Offshore Drilling  


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