Wyden, Merkley join bid to permanently ban offshore drilling

WASHINGTON – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined their fellow West Coast senators in introducing the West Coast Ocean Protection Expansion Act this week to permanently ban offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf of Oregon, Washington and California.

The legislation, first introduced in 2010, would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently protect the coastal economies of the three states, which are worth about $60 billion and support more than 650,000 jobs in Oregon, California and Washington.

“The decades-long ban on oil and gas exploration off the Pacific Coast has allowed the fishing, tourism and recreation economies in Oregon’s coastal communities to thrive,” Wyden said. “By making these long-supported and essential protections permanent, this bill will continue to safeguard the thousands of jobs that depend on the opportunities along our shores.”

“Countless Oregonians depend on our coast to sustain jobs in our state’s fishing, shipping, and tourism industries, and we can’t afford to put the state’s economy at risk just to pad the profits of big oil,” Merkley said. “With a new Administration signaling a dangerous willingness to put polluters in charge, it is more important than ever to ensure that Oregon’s coastline is protected.”

The West Coast Ocean Protection Expansion Act prohibits the U.S. Department of the Interior from issuing a lease for exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas in any area of the outer continental shelf off the coast of Oregon, Washington or California.

In November, the Interior Department proposed protections from drilling for these waters through 2022. However, a permanent ban has not been signed into law.

The bill was also cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., introduced a similar version of the bill in the House, along with 14 cosponsors