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Oregonians call for elimination of federal offshore drilling program

Protection Oregon: Five coastal cities, including Lincoln City, as well as the City of Portland have adopted local resolutions opposing offshore drilling. – Jeremy C. Ruark / The News Guard

In response to coverage in the Wall Street Journal announcing the indefinite postponement of the federal offshore drilling plan by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, Oregon coastal advocates are calling for a wholesale scrapping of the program, citing the need for certainty in protecting our coastal communities and economies.

The Trump administration’s initial proposal from January 2018 would have opened Oregon coastal waters to new offshore oil and gas leases for the first time in more than 30 years, which sparked a bipartisan wave of opposition across the state. The proposal threatened both the health of the marine environment and the many coastal businesses that depend upon it for survival.

“Oregonians from all over the state stand united in our opposition to offshore drilling, because we value our beautiful beaches and working waterfronts,” Brianna Goodwin of Surfrider Foundation said. “We are calling on the federal government to officially cancel plans to revise and release the five-year offshore drilling program.”

“I don’t want Oregon to be the next place making headlines because a tanker has run aground on one of our rocky reefs or a pipe is leaking crude oil into the waters that supply my restaurant with Dungeness crab, albacore tuna, shrimp and rockfish,” Laura Anderson of Local Ocean seafood restaurant in Newport said. “I hope the federal government will respect our desire to protect our economy and way of life.”

Bipartisan legislation signed into law in March strengthened Oregon’s defenses against oil and gas development off its coast. The legislation removed the sunset date on Oregon’s existing drilling ban for state waters, and prevents the development of new piers, pipelines and other infrastructure needed to support drilling in federal waters.

This legislation built on a wave of drilling opposition from coastal communities. In the past year, the cities of Port Orford, Newport, Lincoln City, Toledo, Yachats, Gold Beach and Portland, the Siletz Tribal Council and the Ports of Toledo and Newport have passed resolutions against the federal drilling proposal.

“Our ocean is supported by fishermen and a broad coalition of ocean users hoping to make Oregon a pioneer in a sustainable healthy ocean economy,” Senator Arnie Roblan, who co-sponsored the state legislation waters with Representative David Brock Smith, said. “Drilling for oil and gas off our coasts will certainly jeopardize coastal economies and put vulnerable communities at risk — by threatening our public beaches, commercial fisheries, tourism and recreational economies.”

The Pacific Coast has been closed to new drilling for decades, with the last federal lease sales taking place in 1984. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, tourism, recreation and fishing along Oregon’s coast generate over a billion dollars per year and support 25,000 jobs.

Over 3,200 businesses on the West Coast opposed to offshore oil and gas development have joined the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast (BAPPC). The group represents a broad range of industries: technology, tourism, seafood and real estate, among others, united in a shared belief that a healthy coast is vital to their bottom lines, as well as the lifestyles of their customers and staff.

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