WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent today, fourteen Members of Congress from Oregon and Washington pressed the administration for continued protection of Oregon’s and Washington’s coasts from offshore drilling. Specifically, the letter urged the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to exclude Oregon and Washington’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Planning Area from any offshore oil and gas lease sales, as outlined under the proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
Led by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), the letter to Dr. Walter Cruickshank, Acting Director of the BOEM, was also signed by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Jim McDermott (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Adam Smith (D-WA).
The Members’ letter noted that Oregon’s and Washington’s coasts support local economies such as fishing and tourism, provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, and generate over $16 billion per year in economic activity. The letter also noted that both states’ coasts support sensitive ecosystems and provide homes to many endangered and threatened species.
“Assurances of safety and environmental protection mean nothing when one incident has the potential to utterly devastate our coastal economy and ecosystem,” the Members wrote in the letter. “There is nothing to be gained by leasing the waters off the Pacific Northwest coast for oil and gas leasing; there is only tremendous and unnecessary risk.”
The Members of Congress urged the BOEM to turn its focus to exploring clean energy technologies such as wave, tidal and wind, while reinforcing the importance of inclusive consultation with key stakeholders, such as local fishing fleets and tribal entities, and the need to take precautions to protect marine life. Investing in these cleaner energy sources would provide good-paying jobs and develop the economy more safely than would offshore drilling.
The letter stated that local laws and public opinion have consistently opposed offshore drilling in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, the Members cited that estimated oil and gas resources in the region are very low, ranking 16th out of 22 OCS planning areas.
The BOEM is an independent agency responsible promoting energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy and marine mineral resources. It oversees assessments of the oil, gas and other mineral resource potential of the OCS, inventories oil and gas reserves, and handles the actual Oil and Gas Lease Sales.
The text of the Members’ letter is available here.