No New Offshore Oil and Gas Leases

Why Ocean Conservancy Supports H.R. 4936—the Nonrestrictive Offshore Wind (NOW) Act

I’ve spent a large part of my career working to prevent and end offshore oil and gas drilling. So, when the Biden administration recently announced its new five-year oil and gas drilling plan that scheduled multiple new offshore oil and gas drilling lease sales, I was disappointed to say the least. 

At a time when it’s never been clearer that we’re truly in a climate crisis (waters off the coast of Florida passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July!), we can’t afford to continue extracting and then burning more fossil fuels. The number of new lease sales was relatively small compared to previous leasing plans, but what made this one hurt just a little bit more is that it may only have been issued due to a troublesome rule that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act. 

That rule requires at least 60 million acres of our ocean be made available for offshore oil and gas drilling before any offshore wind leases can be sold. Sixty million acres is roughly the size of Michigan! In other words, if we want to continue leasing offshore renewable energy sources that will save both our ocean and us from climate change, we must keep offering offshore oil and gas leases. It doesn’t seem to matter that the new oil and gas leases will make the climate crisis worse and harm our ocean. This doesn’t make sense, and I don’t want to settle for it. 

What gets to me the most is that the Inflation Reduction Act was groundbreaking. It was the largest investment in climate action our country has ever made and makes millions of dollars of tax credits available to help build clean, renewable sources of energy. Yet this tie with offshore wind and oil and gas drilling keeps the law from truly being a transition to clean energy. We need to cut out this unwise provision and make the Inflation Reduction Act a law that fights climate change without a giant offshore drilling asterisk. 

Offshore drilling threatens our ocean and wildlife with oil spills, creates toxic air pollution and—most of all—worsens and deepens the climate crisis. Additionally, the oil and gas industry unfairly harms lower-income communities and communities of color that bear a disproportionate share of pollution and other health impacts from oil and gas activities located near shoreline facilities. For example, a region in Louisiana has been deemed “Cancer Alley” because of a high concentration of petrochemical facilities and the extremely high numbers of health problems in the area. We cannot keep leasing, developing and drilling offshore oil if we want a healthy ocean and livable future for all. 

That’s why Ocean Conservancy supports H.R. 4936—the Nonrestrictive Offshore Wind (NOW) Act, introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and co-led by Representative Deborah Ross (D-NC-02). The NOW Act would repeal the section of the Inflation Reduction Act that links new offshore wind leases with new offshore oil and gas leasing. If passed, the NOW Act would allow the federal government to sell new offshore wind leases freely and pave a path for no new oil and gas leases, and, ultimately, less greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. That’s the type of future I want to be a part of—one that’s free from fossil fuels and powered by clean energy.

Join us in calling on members of Congress to pass the NOW Act.

To address the climate crisis, we need a rapid, just and responsible energy transition. That transition must include the build-out of responsible offshore wind. Responsibly developed offshore wind is an effective, reliable clean-ocean energy source that can power large coastal population centers and can boost local economies providing jobs and manufacturing opportunities. And this can be done without undue harm to marine life and the ocean environment

But building out clean, renewable offshore wind isn’t enough. It must also be coupled with phasing out dirty and dangerous fossil fuel development that has inflamed the climate crisis for more than a century—and that means getting serious about a real transition. The NOW Act is a critical step on that path. Join with us at Ocean Conservancy to tell members of Congress to pass the NOW Actnow

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