Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Columbia, South Carolina CNN  — 

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called on Congress on Wednesday to put a stop to oil drilling off the US coasts.

The former congressman from Texas is asking members of Congress to pass South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham’s Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which would place a moratorium on offshore drilling and prohibit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from offering any new tracts for oil and gas leasing or preleasing off the California, Oregon and Washington state coastline and the Atlantic Coast.

Offshore drilling is a key political issue in South Carolina, an early voting state. A number of 2020 Democratic candidates have staked out their opposition to it as they try to make headway in the state. O’Rourke, who has made five trips to South Carolina since announcing his candidacy, has previously stated his opposition, including at last week’s CNN climate town hall.

Cunningham represents the coastal 1st Congressional District in the Palmetto State and his opposition to offshore drilling was a major factor in the 2018 election, when he flipped a seat that had been held by a Republican since 1981.

“Offshore drilling threatens the local wildlife and water of communities in South Carolina and across the country while also undermining economic opportunity,” O’Rourke said in a news release. “Thanks to Congressman Cunningham’s tremendous leadership in the fight for our climate and our future, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act is receiving a vote today on the floor of the House of Representatives. I urge Congress to pass this bill, which is a critical step forward in fighting climate change and preserving our environment.”

In 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order beginning a five-year development plan for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the East Coast. The move came just months after then-President Barack Obama had banned drilling in millions of acres of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

O’Rourke released his plan to tackle climate change in May, in which he said he plans to invest $5 trillion over 10 years in infrastructure and innovation. It also sets a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and outlines a four-part framework to address this “existential threat” and “growing emergency.” O’Rourke also signed a pledge in May to turn away donations from fossil fuel industry executives.