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Northwest lawmakers to Zinke: Hands off our coast

February 2, 2018
In The News

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer joined a bicameral, bipartisan group of 16 Pacific Northwest lawmakers in a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke calling for the Oregon and Washington coasts to be removed from Interior’s offshore drilling plan.

The lawmakers wrote, “We write to express our strong opposition to inclusion of Pacific Northwest waters in the Trump Administration’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. The states of Washington and Oregon have made clear through local, state, and federal action, as well as extensive public comment, that oil and gas lease sales off the Pacific Coast are not in the best interest of our economies or environment.”

In addition to the Oregon senators and representatives, the letter was signed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA).

Oil drilling and exploration off the Pacific Northwest coastline or an oil spill from drilling anywhere along the Pacific coast poses a devastating threat to the fishing, shellfish, and tourism industries at the heart of Oregon’s and Washington state’s economy. In 2016, the tourism industry in Oregon directly employed nearly 110,000 Oregonians and visitors spent over $11 billion in the state. Additionally, commercial fishing is a major economic driver along the coast, supporting more than $500 million in personal income in Oregon.

“There is a reason it has been decades since the waters off the coasts of Washington and Oregon have been considered for oil and gas leasing,” the lawmakers continued. “Voluminous existing information documents the lack of oil and gas resources; absence of oil and gas industry interest; strong state and local opposition as expressed through laws, goals and policies of affected states; other uses of the waters to support our coastal economies that conflict with oil and gas activities; and extreme environmental and ecological risks.”