Fact Sheet

Offshore Drilling



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director



This year the Biden-Harris Administration placed a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in federal waters through a sweeping executive order. This policy represents a monumental shift from the Trump administration’s rollbacks to offshore drilling protections and proposals to open up more than 90 percent of the coastline to oil and gas exploration and construction. While the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to act on climate is encouraging, now is the time for states to act and permanently block offshore drilling off their coasts through resolutions, bans in state waters, restrictions on seismic testing, and strict liability laws.

Key Points


Offshore drilling threatens entire marine ecosystems and the associated livelihoods. Exploration and drilling can have negative long-lasting impacts on the marine environment and coastal communities. (Surfrider)


Offshore drilling requires massive amounts of onshore infrastructure. This infrastructure usually occupies wetlands and beaches, and diminishes the ecosystem services that these habitats offer to onshore communities, including protection against sea-level rise and shoreline stabilization. (Beachapedia)


There are alternative forms of clean energy that are competitive and can provide power to coastal communities without the risks and detriments associated with offshore drilling. (Center for American Progress)

Policy Models


State legislators opposed to offshore drilling can introduce outright bans preventing drilling within state waters.


State legislators opposed to offshore drilling can also introduce other types of legislation to block new and existing offshore drilling, like restrictions on seismic testing or strict liability laws.


State legislatures can issue resolutions documenting their opposition to offshore drilling in federal waters. These resolutions influence the federal government’s policy and actions. 


NCEL Resources

Success Story

States Coordinate Action Against Offshore Drilling

November 26, 2020

Online Resources

The Economic Effects of Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Exploration and Development

Southern Environmental Law Center study which documents the impact of offshore drilling in the South Atlantic.

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Oil Spill Incident Map - NOAA

Map detailing the location of every oil spill and incident where NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration provided scientific support for the response.

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Empower State Environmental Champions

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