On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives pushed back on the Trump administration’s goal of expanding offshore oil exploration. Democrats and a smattering of Republicans from coastal districts voted to ban new leasing and drilling off the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts in two bills.

The measures passed in the lower House will be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate. But longtime opponents of new drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico said the vote underscores risks to other coastal industries from energy exploration.

“The economic and environmental risks to our coastal economies which offshore drilling creates far outweigh any potential benefits,” said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), one of 22 GOP members who voted for keeping in place a moratorium on leases off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Seismic testing and drilling threaten our fish and marine mammal populations. The industrial infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling, and ultimately offshore production of oil and gas, is wholly incompatible with the economies of our coastal communities,” said Rooney.

Rooney voted along with one Democratic lead sponsor of the measures, Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., a freshman lawmaker representing Charleston who is allied with environmental groups opposing new exploration and leases off the Southeast coast.

“We’ve proven to folks that opposition to offshore drilling is not a partisan issue,” Cunningham said in a press conference before the vote. “In my state of South Carolina, I’ve worked with coastal mayors up and down our coast and Governor Henry McMaster to oppose offshore drilling. I’ve been inspired by the work of the South Carolina State House this year to ban the onshore infrastructure necessary for offshore drilling.”

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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