Piecemeal or Comprehensive Protection From Oil Spills

In spite of the drama of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling disaster, efforts to protect Americans from the dangers of expanding offshore drilling have been weak. The Obama Administration offered only a short pause in the granting of new drilling permits, not even long enough to wait for the results of a full investigation of the factors that led to the deadly blowout. Congress has done even less.

Democrats remain divided about what to do in response to the threat posed by offshore drilling. This division was represented by two bills offered last week in the House of Representatives.

The No New Drilling Act, officially registered as H.R. 261 and introduced by Frank Pallone, John Garamendi and Kathy Castor, offers a comprehensive approach. The bill would prohibit the granting of leases for new offshore drilling in any area of the Outer Continental Shelf in U.S. waters.

On the other hand, H.R. 264, introduced by Mike Thompson, represents a Not In My Back Yard mentality. The bill would only ban offshore drilling along the coast that touches the California counties of Medocino, Humboldt and Del Norte.

There’s nothing about the coast in one area of California that’s more valuable than the coastline in other parts of the country. If offshore drilling for oil is bad for California, then Congress ought to recognize similar vulnerabilities across the USA, and address the larger problem through a comprehensive ban rather than protecting only some areas in a piecemeal fashion.

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