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West Coast Lawmakers Seek Ban On Offshore Drilling


An oil spill response drill in Puget Sound.

An oil spill response drill in Puget Sound.

Samantha Larson, Crosscut.

West Coast lawmakers are seeking a permanent ban on offshore drilling along the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Democrat-sponsored bills have been introduced into both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There have been no oil and gas lease sales off the West Coast since 1984. But as the Trump administration prepares to take office, concerns are growing that could change.

“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,” said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a sponsor of the Senate bill along with fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. They cited a need to protect coastal economies, which they say are worth a combined $60 billion and 650,000 jobs between the three states.

Legislation to ban drilling off the West Coast was first introduced in 2010. A temporary ban on West Coast offshore drilling expires in 2022.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and a co-sponsor of the new bill, cited the danger of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which dumped millions of barrels of oil and cost billions of dollars to clean up. 

“We can’t afford these kinds of risks. The residents, the environment, the coastal economies, the taxpayers … not even the oil and gas industry can afford a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon,” Cantwell said.

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