Breaking News
More () »

Trump moves to open Oregon, Washington coasts to oil drilling

New leases also would be offered in California for the first time since 1984.
Arctic oil drilling rig

Oil and gas drilling would be allowed off the coasts of Oregon and Washington for the first time under a proposal released Thursday by the Trump administration.

New leases also would be offered in California for the first time since 1984.

The five-year plan is the largest expansion of offshore drilling in U.S. history, making 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf available for exploration and development.

It would reverse a decades-long ban that protects the West Coast from oil and gas drilling and open drilling in new areas of the Arctic, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in announcing the decision.

A group of 64 conservation groups across the country, including the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, immediately issued a statement condemning the move.

“These ocean waters are not President Trump's personal playground," it reads. "They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he will fight the proposal.

“With America more energy secure now than ever, Trump's fear-mongering and falsehoods about our country's energy supply reveal a shameless agenda to prop up oil and gas industries at the expense of coastal fishing, recreation economies and the environment,” Wyden said.

Eleven state attorneys general, including California's, have said they might sue to stop new drilling. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a joint statement:

"This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington, and California – Republicans and Democrats alike," they said. "For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”

The current five-year plan was finalized by the Obama administration in November 2016 and will remain in effect until the new plan is approved by the U.S. Department of Interior. Obama permanently protected parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit over Trump's April 28, 2017, executive order seeking to roll back those protections.

The new proposal calls for 47 potential lease sales between 2019 and 2024: 19 off the coast of Alaska; 12 in the Gulf of Mexico; nine in the Atlantic Region; and seven in the Pacific Region.

The seven Pacific Region leases include two each in Northern California, Central California and Southern California, and one in the Washington/Oregon region. The Washington/Oregon sale is scheduled for 2021.

The prospect is “reckless, terrifying, unprecedented,” said Charlie Plybon of the Surfrider Foundation's Newport Oregon chapter.

“I think it was a shock for a lot of people to see Oregon in this proposal,” Plybon said. “There's a lot of concern from all the different communities on the coast.”

Oregon legislation prohibits drilling in its near shore “territorial sea” through 2023, Plybon said.

“But any spill offshore can impact things near shore," he said. "We have marine reserves. We have protected areas that will be vulnerable.”

Drilling in Washington and Alaska also would put Oregon at risk, Plybon said, as weather systems bring pollutants down the coast.

Twenty-three public meetings on the Trump administration's plan will be held around the country between Jan. 16 and Feb. 28.

In Oregon, the meeting will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Salem Red Lion Hotel, 3301 Market St. NE.

The Washington meeting will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Tacoma's Landmark Catering and Convention Center, 47 St. Helens Ave.

Comments also can be submitted online or by mail. More information is available at www.boem.gov/National-Program-Comment/#submitcomments.

tloew@statesmanjournal.com, 503-399-6779 or follow at Twitter.com/Tracy_Loe

Before You Leave, Check This Out