WASHINGTON, DC – At a press conference this morning, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Pacific Coast Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in introducing legislation to permanently ban offshore drilling in all federal waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. The bill is also sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently protect the $34 billion coastal economies of the three states – which support nearly 570,000 jobs in Washington, Oregon and California.
“President Bush and Congress made a mistake in 2008 by letting the 20 year ban on drilling off Washington state expire,” Senator Cantwell said at today’s press conference. “At that time, ‘drill, baby, drill’ was the popular rallying cry for some, even though we tried to point out that offshore drilling would never lower gas prices or impact our foreign oil dependence. Now, with the horrific oil rig accident continuing to unfold before us in the Gulf, it is all too clear that the majority of our constituents were right all along in opposing offshore drilling. We must act to safeguard our precious coastal waters and end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. It is simply unacceptable to risk irreparable harm to our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems just to feed our oil addiction with a short-term fix – especially when new technologies are emerging that give us real alternatives. Ultimately, the overarching lesson from the mess in the Gulf is that we need to diversify our nation off of oil.”
“I’ve always opposed drilling off the coast of Washington,” Senator Murray said in a statement. “The current tragedy in the Gulf Coast is a painful reminder that we can’t allow drilling anywhere on the West Coast. The economic and environmental devastation caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster is still impacting industry in our region, and we can’t allow it to happen again. Our environment and our economy are too important to risk, and this bill ensures that big oil companies can never roll the dice on the Pacific Coast.”
In Washington state, the coastal region supports 162,000 jobs and generates $9.5 billion in economic activity. Commercial and recreational fishing in Washington fisheries alone support over 16,000 jobs and generate $540 million dollars annually. Nationwide, the coastal economy supports 3.6 million jobs. The ocean off Washington state is deep and subject to wild weather, increasing the risk of an accident if drilling were to occur. The West Coast is also seismically active and susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis, such that a natural disaster might not only cause a catastrophic oil spill but also seriously hinder our response capability.
The United States has less than two percent of the world’s oil in its reserves, and off the West Coast, only enough oil to last 500 days – less time than it can take to clean up a serious oil spill. Washington state’s offshore oil supply alone would only power the nation’s oil addiction for less than a month. By contrast, if all vehicles’ tires were properly inflated, cars would achieve more efficient gas mileage, saving the equivalent of all the oil off the West Coast in only 25 days.