Sen. Maria Cantwell wants coastal waters off Oregon and Washington removed from a federal draft plan for offshore oil and gas drilling. The Washington Democrat sounded the alarm during a visit to Vancouver on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re here today to say we don’t want that economy that depends so much on our coastal issues of fishing and natural resources to be destroyed by what could be a catastrophic oil event,” Cantwell said.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Cantwell joined a bipartisan group of 15 congressional delegates from the Pacific Northwest — including southwest Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler — who are opposed to the drilling plan.
Cantwell said it would put Washington and Oregon’s multibillion-dollar fishing industries at risk.
“The idea of drilling off the coast of Washington and Oregon is just wrong,” she said. “The risk to the economy and the environmental impact is just too great.”
Last month, Zinke removed Florida from the draft plan, saying its coast is too important to the state’s tourism market. Cantwell wants the same consideration for the Pacific Northwest.
In a conference room at the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Cantwell stood alongside members of southwest Washington’s coastal fishing and tourism agencies.
“Pacific County has been known for oyster farming for over 150 years. It’s part of our foundation, it’s rooted in our culture,” said Kathleen Nisbet-Moncy, a second-generation oyster farmer in Willapa Bay and the chief operating officer of Goose Point Oysters.
“One oil spill could literally devastate the entire estuaries in which we farm,” she said.
In Washington, maritime businesses bring in more than $50 billion to the state and provide 191,000 jobs. Larry Thevik, president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, said drilling oil offshore is not worth the risk.
“Offshore drilling projects off our shores offer us minimal gain with maximum risk,” Thevik said. He added that the draft plan is “ill-conceived, reckless and carries risks we don’t want to take, we don’t need to take and we must not take.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding a public meeting on the issue in Tacoma on Monday.