WASHINGTON – Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski (both D-Md) today joined a dozen other Senators in calling on President Barack Obama to use his authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to permanently protect the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from offshore oil and gas drilling. The statute states, “The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.” The absence of explicit language in OCSLA that references the authority to revoke those withdrawals, in contrast to other statutes like the Federal Land Policy and Management Act that does includes language to both withdraw lands from certain uses and also to revoke those withdrawals, indicates that this statute empowers the President to permanently withdraw federal lands offshore from oil and gas drilling.
“Using this authority to permanently protect these areas would ensure that important industries in our coastal states such as fishing and tourism are protected, that we do not despoil our beaches and coastlines or the sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean, and that we align our long-term federal energy decisions with a climate-safe future,” write the Senators in the letter to President Obama.
A copy of the Senators’ letter can he found here.
In the letter, the Senators argue that the environment and economies of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans would be threatened if offshore oil drilling were allowed. Fishing and tourism on the East Coast generates hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. The oil industry’s attempts to drill offshore in the Arctic have been riddled with safety lapses and mishaps, leading it to relinquish the bulk of the drilling leases that were held in the Arctic Ocean.
Other Senators signing the letter include Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Wisc.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-Nj.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).