Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Protect American Coasts from Catastrophic Oil Spills

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that they have joined Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and others to introduce the Clean Coast Act, legislation that codifies rules that were finalized by the Department of the Interior in 2016 to address key safety recommendations. These safety rules were put in place after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and to address the specific and significant risks of drilling in Arctic waters. Merkley and Wyden’s move comes as the Oregon coast is under new threat of being opened to offshore drilling by the Trump administration.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Markey (D-Mass.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Shaheen (D-N.H.), Booker (D-N.J.), Reed (D-R.I.), Nelson (D-Fla.), Murray (D-Wash.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Carper (D-Del.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Harris (D-Calif.) and Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill—a catastrophic human, economic, and ecological disaster—resulted in the death of 11 members of the crew and the injury of 17 others. Oil spewed into the ocean for nearly three months, resulting in the largest offshore oil spill disaster in the history of the United States.

“Offshore drilling must end, and I will do everything I can to fight it and to ensure drilling never happens off the Oregon coast,” said Merkley. “But where it is already underway, we need to maintain the highest levels of safety by passing this bill.”

“As I recently told Ryan Zinke at a Senate hearing, Oregonians don’t want to see oil derricks on the horizon when we look out at Haystack Rock,” Wyden said. “This shameless agenda to prop up oil and gas industries by recklessly opening nearly the entire United States’ coast to drilling would hurt coastal economies and go completely against the wishes of local communities. The hardworking Oregonians who live and work on our coast should not have their economic well-being threatened for the benefit of oil executives’ profits.”

In April 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13795, “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” directing the Department of the Interior to reconsider the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule and the Arctic Drilling Rule. His move to reverse these critical regulations would put oil companies’ profits ahead of worker safety and preventing environmental catastrophe.

This legislation codifies the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule and the Arctic Drilling Rule:

Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule: This rule includes safeguards like minimum requirements for the design, manufacture, repair, and maintenance of blowout preventers; dual shear rams for deepwater blowout preventers; real-time monitoring capability for high-risk drilling activities; and criteria for safe drilling margins consistent with recommendations arising out of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule was finalized in April 2016.

Arctic Drilling Rule: This rule includes safeguards for drilling activities in the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, such as requiring access to appropriate containment and response equipment; ability to drill a relief well within the same season; and capability to predict and respond to ice conditions and adverse weather. The Arctic Drilling Rule was finalized in July 2016.

Read the bill text here.