Environment

U.S. House Moves To Ban Offshore Oil In The Atlantic As Concern For Right Whales Grows

In this 2018 file photo, the baleen is visible as a North Atlantic right whale feeds. On Wednesday, the U,S, House moved to ban offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic to protect the whales.
In this 2018 file photo, the baleen is visible as a North Atlantic right whale feeds. On Wednesday, the U,S, House moved to ban offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic to protect the whales.
Credit Michael Dwyer / Associated Press, File
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The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday to ban offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic. Though there isn’t any oil and gas drilling off the coast of Georgia now, the Trump administration has tried to expand exploration in the Atlantic.

Opposition to oil and gas development has been somewhat bipartisan in Georgia, with local politicians and businesses expressing concern about the effects on tourism and the environment. Gov. Brian Kemp has also said he’s against it.

But the Georgia delegation voted on H.R. 1941 along party lines, with all Democrats supporting it, and Republicans opposed. That includes Buddy Carter, the Republican who represents the Georgia coast in Congress, who had surprised activists when he came out against offshore oil exploration earlier this year.

The bill has little chance in the Senate, and the president has said he would veto it.

On the Senate side Wednesday, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to help protect North Atlantic right whales. The endangered giants raise their calves off the Georgia coast in the winter, but they spend their summers farther north — and that’s where they’ve been running into trouble in recent years.

Their primary food seems to be moving, possibly in connection with climate change. Several have been hit and killed by ships. Many have been caught in fishing gear. There are around 400 of the whales left.

In a report released Thursday, the advocacy group Oceana called on the United States and Canada to introduce more regulations on fishing and ship speeds when right whales are in the area, and to not allow seismic tests for offshore oil and gas exploration.