Oregon officials blast Trump proposal to open up oil drilling off coast

A proposal that could open up oil drilling in Oregon and Washington has a lot of people asking questions. Where might it happen? What’s the likelihood of it happening?

The Trump Administration’s proposal this week to open up previously protected areas to offshore drilling for oil has drawn harsh criticism from Oregon officials.

“I am appalled that our president would move contrary to Oregon values, frankly contrary to west coast values,” said Gov. Kate Brown.

“This is the wrong direction for our country,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.

Elected officials in Oregon said they’re concerned about what the proposal could mean for the ecosystem, tourism and local economies.

“We have a thriving commercial fishing industry. I mean look at what could happen with an accident,” said Bonamici.

“Drilling off our coast and imperiling the ecosystem and quite frankly having spills that could do enormous damage to our beaches and our tourism is absolutely insane. [It’s] a terrible idea and we’ll fight it as hard as we can,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Right now, the U.S. Department of Interior said 94 percent of the outer continental shelf is off limits. Most of it would be opened up to drilling under the proposal, and a decades-long ban that protected the West Coast would be reversed.  

But how likely is it that oil companies would converge on Oregon? Ali Ryan Hansen with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, said it’s not very likely to happen.

“Really the bottom line for Oregon is offshore drilling is pretty unlikely. It’s a really complex geologic environment and also past drilling really hasn’t turned up the amount of oil and gas you’d need to make an economic go of any kind of offshore drilling,” said Hansen.

She said eight exploratory wells were drilled off the Oregon Coast in the 1960s. They didn’t find much oil, and she said not much has changed since then.

There’s also the shifting tectonic plates below our region that would make it harder to get to any oil that might be offshore.

“[It’s] far more complicated than it is in other places,” said Hansen.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington say they’re united in their opposition to the president’s proposal.

However, not everyone is unhappy. The Heartland Institute, a think-tank that aligns itself with other conservative and libertarian organizations, says opening up more areas for drilling will be good for the country’s economy.

A spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association said oil production can be done safely, especially with regulations in place. They said there is currently no oil production or refinement in Oregon.

The Trump administration is planning to have public meetings around the country between January and February. They will begin on Jan. 16.

In Oregon, the meeting will be held on Feb. 6 in Salem, from 3-7 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, located at 3301 Market Street NE.

In Washington, the meeting will take place on Feb. 5, from 3-7pm at Tacoma’s Landmark Catering and Convention Center located, at 47 St. Helens Avenue.

Online comments can be submitted beginning on Jan. 8