Cantwell, Murray Introduce Bill to Permanently Ban Drilling Off West Coast

West Coast Ocean Protection Act would make permanent Biden’s temporary moratorium on federal oil and gas drilling leases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently ban offshore drilling in federal waters off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.

The bill introduction comes after President Biden issued an executive order halting new federal oil and gas drilling leases. The senators’ bill would make the moratorium permanent in federal waters off the West Coast. This would prevent future administrations from opening up West Coast waters to drilling, which the Trump administration attempted to do. 

“Washington’s $30 billion dollar maritime economy supports over 146,000 jobs from fisheries, trade, tourism and recreation—but it could all be devastated in an instant by an oil spill,” Senator Cantwell said. “We must permanently ban offshore drilling on the West Coast to protect our coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems against the risk of an oil spill.”

“The Pacific Ocean provides vital natural resources for Washington state, and off-shore drilling puts everything from local jobs and ecosystems at risk,” Senator Murray said. “We need this permanent ban to safeguard our coastal environment and our state’s economy, including fisheries, outdoor recreation, and so much more.”

Washington’s maritime sector contributes more than $21.4 billion in gross business income, and directly employs nearly 69,500 people. Including indirect and induced impacts, the state’s maritime economy is worth $30 billion in economic activity, and supports more than 146,000 jobs in the fishing, seafood processing, shipbuilding, trade, and other maritime sectors. The state’s maritime economy also provides jobs with substantially better pay than the average for all industries. The average pay for a job in Washington is $52,000, while maritime workers are paid an average of $70,800 — totaling over $4.7 billion in wages. Tourism on the coast adds thousands of jobs for anglers, charter boats, guides, restaurants, hotels and more. Oil spills and activities related to exploration pose a grave threat to these jobs, which rely on clean water and healthy oceans. 

Senators Cantwell and Murray have led the fight to ban oil drilling on the West Coast, introducing similar legislation in multiple previous congresses.

In addition to Cantwell and Murray, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Companion legislation will be introduced by Congressman Jared Huffman (D, CA-02) in the House of Representatives.