Exclusive: Rep. Garamendi to push for permanent ban on West Coast oil drilling
WASHINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Responding to likely the worst oil spill in US history, freshman Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) is set to introduce legislation later today that would “permanently prohibit” offshore drilling all along the Pacific Coast.
The brief two-page bill, which the congressman has dubbed the “West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2010,” was provided by his office to Raw Story. It seeks to “amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act” to ban oil exploration “off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.”
“If you have any doubts on the need for this legislation, there’s an oil slick the size of Puerto Rico that I want to introduce you to,” Garamendi said in a statement to Raw Story.
The Gulf Coast spill has reinforced the representative’s longstanding opposition to a policy that Democrats are divided on and Republicans vigorously support — and one that President Barack Obama has backed to an extent.
“The people of the Gulf Coast are now witnessing the unnatural consequence of ‘drill, baby, drill,'” Garamendi said. “Precious wetlands and hundreds of miles of coastline are at risk, multi-billion dollar ocean-based industries are threatened, and the experts say this spill could continue for months.”
The bill arrives just two days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, where Garamendi served as lieutenant governor until being elected to Congress last year, rescinded his support for offshore drilling and cited the “enormous disaster” in the Gulf.
“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to see this devastation in California,” Garamendi continued. “My bill would re-institute the congressional moratorium on new offshore oil drilling in federal waters on the West Coast. A congressional moratorium served us well for two and a half decades.”
The congressman will in the coming days discuss his efforts in a press conference alongside co-sponsors, environmental allies, and industry representatives impacted by the Gulf crisis, his spokesman told Raw Story.
President Obama — who five weeks ago announced his intention to lift the moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas drilling along the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coastline, and northern parts of the Alaskan coast — has postponed plans until the spill is contained.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday in a press briefing that it would be “premature” for the president to terminate the proposal — viewed largely as an olive branch to court Republican support for comprehensive energy reform — but hinted that the incident may cause him to reevaluate.