Today, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) offered an amendment in the House Natural Resources Committee that would protect Alaska's Bristol Bay and thousands of fishing jobs along the West Coast that depend on this prolific and irreplaceable fishery. DeFazio's amendment would prevent oil drilling in Bristol Bay, protecting it and the $2 billion fishing industry from catastrophic spills or accidents. The Republican legislation would mandate leasing in Bristol Bay, in addition to California, sensitive areas of the Gulf Coast, and the East Coast.
"It is absurd to expose a $2 billion per year industry to the risk of a catastrophic oil spill that could devastate coastal communities, destroy the world's most productive salmon fishery, and cost thousands of jobs," said DeFazio. "Drilling for oil in Bristol Bay will do nothing to lower the price of gasoline for U.S. drivers or move us closer to energy independence. But a spill or accident could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans and wipe out a fishery that produces 40% of the total catch in the country. The uncertain, unlikely benefits of production simply don't outweigh the real, known risks."
Oil companies already hold rights to more than 30 million offshore acres that they are not producing oil from. This is 85 percent of the offshore acreage under lease.
"If the big oil companies are so desperate to drill they should start with the 30 million acres they have leased but left idle instead of a sensitive and irreplaceable area that supports the economies of coastal communities all along the West Coast," said DeFazio.
After the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill, President George H.W. Bush's administration supported a drilling moratorium and Congress authorized $100 million in taxpayer funds to purchase oil leases in Alaska's Bristol Bay and protect this vital fishing resource from potential destruction. However, President George W. Bush reversed his father's decision and lifted the drilling moratorium that protected Bristol Bay for nearly two decades. In 2010, President Obama reversed that policy by excluding the area from drilling in its 2012-2017 outer continental shelf leasing program.
DeFazio's amendment would ensure that the Obama Administration's decision would not be overturned by Congress.
The amendment failed in committee on a straight party line vote.