Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) introduced the Defend Our Coast Act to protect North Carolina’s coastline and the state’s robust tourism, recreation, and fishing industries from offshore drilling. This legislation prohibits the Department of the Interior (DOI) from issuing a lease for the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas in the mid-Atlantic, including off the coast of North Carolina. The bill was cosponsored by Representatives Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Don Beyer (VA-08), Alma Adams (NC-12), Bobby Scott (VA-03), and Wiley Nickel (NC-13).

“North Carolina’s economy and way of life are rooted in our natural environment,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Our state depends on a pristine coastline and a clean and healthy marine ecosystem to support robust tourism, recreation, and fishing economies—the lifelines of our coastal communities. I’m proud to introduce the Defend Our Coast Act to prevent offshore oil and gas drilling along the mid-Atlantic seaboard and I will never stop fighting to protect North Carolina’s priceless environmental heritage for future generations.”

“Congresswoman Ross's Defend Our Coast Act would permanently protect the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area from offshore oil and gas leasing,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director. “This legislation would safeguard our oceans and marine life, because we know that when they drill, they spill. Too many oil spills continue to pollute our waters. The Defend Our Coast Act puts a permanent end to drilling in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area and would protect tourism, fishing, and recreation that depend on a healthy ocean and oil-free beaches.”

“Coastal communities oppose new offshore drilling and seismic blasting, and this bill would protect the Mid-Atlantic and fragile ocean ecosystems,” said Valerie Cleland, Natural Resources Defense Council senior ocean advocate. “With climate and biodiversity crises, and a clean energy economy taking off, we can’t keep our heads in the sand and continue handing over our coastal waters to polluters.”

Congresswoman Ross previously offered an amendment to H.R. 21, the Strategic Production Response Act, to prohibit offshore oil and gas leasing in the mid-Atlantic. The Defend Our Coast Act is a standalone bill that was introduced in the 117th Congress by the late Congressman Donald McEachin, who was a champion of the environment and worked tirelessly to combat the climate crisis.

Bill text is available here.