Cantwell, Boxer Leading Fight to Protect Pacific Coast from Offshore Drilling

West Coast Senators introduce permanent ban to protect coastal jobs, environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation to permanently ban offshore drilling on the West Coast of the United States. Joining as cosponsors on the West Coast Ocean Protection Act were Pacific Coast Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation, first introduced in 2010, 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.
“One of the lessons learned from the disastrous BP oil spill is that without a fundamental transformation of the oil industry, another spill is possible, even likely. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take for Washington state’s beautiful coastlines and the communities that depend on them,” Senator Cantwell said. “More offshore drilling will not lower gasoline prices or reduce our nation’s dangerous overreliance on foreign oil, which is why we should be focusing on the promising clean energy alternatives that are better for consumers and can provide long-term sustainable solutions to America’s energy needs.”
After decades in place, offshore oil and gas drilling moratoriums were allowed to expire in 2008. The proposed legislation would re-impose this ban for the West Coast. Currently, the Pacific Coast is only protected by Obama’s pledge that there will be no new offshore drilling. This bill would enact a permanent moratorium into law that could not be overturned at the whim of a future Administration.
An offshore oil spill could be devastating to our state. In Washington, the coastal region supports 162,000 jobs and generates $9.5 billion in economic activity. Commercial and recreational fishing in Washington fisheries alone provide 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.
In the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Cantwell has introduced legislation that would require the oil industry to continually integrate the latest technologies into oil spill response plans. As a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Cantwell has closely followed the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill investigation. She will attend a full committee hearing tomorrow morning to review the National Commission report and recommendations on the disastrous spill that occurred last year.