The Build Back Better Act would block new oil leasing in the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern Gulf

An energy future that doesn’t threaten America’s coastlines and marine life; now that is “better.”


Kate Griese

Offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous and doesn’t belong in our oceans. 

With two large oil spills in our coastal waters in the past three months, those words have never rung so true.

In August, Hurricane Ida barrelled through the Gulf of Mexico and left devastation in its path, including oil leaks. There have been more than 1,500 reports of pollution in the Gulf, and the total amount of oil spilled remains unknown. While clean up crews were still trying to assess the damage from oil in the Gulf, the Pacific faced its own catastrophic spill. 

Just a month after Ida, a broken pipeline off the coast of Orange County, California, spilled 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean, creating an oil slick in the Pacific larger than Santa Monica, California (that’s 13 miles wide). The disaster deposited black, tarry oil onto the shore of Huntington Beach and the Talbert Marsh wetlands, an ecological reserve home to endangered local birdlife. 

Dead fish and birds washed up on beaches, killed by the oil seeping into the ocean. The ecological damage is still unfolding, but we know it will poison wildlife for years to come.

These disastrous oil spills harm the environment, devastate coastal communities, and are detrimental to public health. They’re also completely preventable. That’s exactly what a new provision in the Build Back Better Act is aiming to do — prevent oil spills by ending offshore drilling. 

The bill, which was passed by the U.S. House today, Friday, November 19th, and now goes to the Senate, would permanently ban new offshore oil and gas leasing along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. This provision is a game-changer for ocean conservation and a big win for our environment. 

While it wouldn’t halt existing offshore drilling activity, blocking new drilling is a big step. Offshore leases have the potential to be in production for more than 10 years so any leases sold now would bind us to this dangerous form of fossil fuel extraction for another decade or longer.

We can’t have that. There’s no reason a lease sold today should be able to cause a devastating oil spill 10 years from now. The Build Back Better Act breaks the seemingly never-ending cycle of oil spill after oil spill.

To protect our coasts and marine life and prevent the worst impacts of climate change, our future must be one that relies on surging clean energy instead of defiling our oceans. The U.S. House has taken the first step to making that happen by passing the Build Back Better Act. Now the Senate and the White House must follow suit.   


Kate Griese