The Trump Administration Thursday issued a massive and controversial proposal to open vast areas along the nation’s coastlines to offshore drilling, including Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Energy Secretary Ryan Zinke said the administration wants to make 90 percent of the national outer continental shelf available for oil and gas drilling. By comparison, current U.S. policy excludes 94 percent of the area.
Zinke said the plan is an attempt to responsibly improve the nation’s economy and energey security. But it came under broad attack from leaders of most coastal states, including the governors of Washington, Oregon and California.
“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike,” according to a joint statement from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science,” the statement says
At a more local level, state Rep. Dean Takko, a Longview Democrat, said he “would be pretty leery about supporting something like this,” though he stressed he did not know the details of the Trump plan. “Thinking of the crabbers and fishermen that this could affect ... My knee-jerk reaction is that I would not want to see (oil exploration) off the coast of my district,” which includes all of Pacific County.
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Under the proposal, 25 of 26 planning areas in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean would be open to oil and gas exploration, according to Zinke. He said the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management has identified 47 potential areas where industry companies can buy leases between 2019 and 2024, when the proposed leasing period would begin and end.
He said 155 members of the Congress have written him expressing support for expanded offshore drilling.
“Nothing is final,” Zinke said in remarks at a news conference. “This is a draft program. The states, local communities and congressional delegations will all have a say” before the proposal becomes final in the coming months.
Zinke acknowledged the administration is making a clear reversal of the Obama administration’s effort to protect areas rather than exploit them. “This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance,” the secretary said. In a press release, Vincent DeVito, the Interior Department’s counselor for energy policy, said the decision “could bring unprecedented access to America’s extensive offshore oil and gas resources and allows us to better compete with other oil-rich nations.”
The administration pledged to take environmental safeguards, but disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion off Louisiana have numerous Atlantic-coast governors from Maine to the Florida Keys opposing offshore drilling.