Biden keeps word on offshore oil drilling

Blog by Frank Knapp, Jr., President & CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce

January 23, 2021

President Joe Biden has taken quick action on climate change including his commitment to ban all new oil drilling on public lands and waters on his first day in office.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) launched a campaign in April of 2019 to secure commitments from every Democratic Presidential candidate to enact the oil drilling ban on Day One.

The importance of winning South Carolina’s “first-in-the-South” primary combined with strong coastal voter opposition to offshore drilling resulted in the campaign successfully garnering 8 candidates committing to a ban.

President Biden made that commitment in June of 2019.

The Washington Post has characterized his pledge as “one of the president’s biggest campaign promises aimed at combating climate change.”

Dino Grandoni of the Post writes:

Within hours of taking office, Scott de la Vega, President Biden’s acting interior secretary, issued an order preventing staff from producing any new fossil fuel leases or permits without sign-off from a top political appointee, effectively freezing new oil, gas and coal development on federal lands and waters for the next 60 days.

While SCSBCC had asked that the ban be in the form of an Executive Order, President Biden’s instruction to his acting interior secretary to issue the Oder to his critical agency got the job done.

All the political controversy about the 60-day ban appears to be over drilling in the interior of the country, not offshore in the Atlantic or Pacific.

While the ban is officially for only a couple months, the battle over drilling in the Atlantic is done for now.

Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will not be waiting on any more Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs), the preliminary permits from the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service required before BOEM can issue offshore oil exploration permits.

And BOEM will not be including oil drilling in the Atlantic in its next 5-year plan for offshore energy.

Atlantic Coast commercial and recreational fishing is safe.  Our coastal tourism will not be threatened by oil spills and leaks in U.S. waters.

But the Biden Administration will not last forever.  The next administration might be a friend of Big Oil and the battle to protect the Atlantic Coast will begin again.

That is why the fight now shifts to Congress that must give permanent protection to the Atlantic.

That will be the final victory.

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