Permanent offshore oil drilling ban OK’d by Oregon lawmakers

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon state lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a permanent offshore oil drilling ban as the Trump administration forges ahead with a plan that could open up the Pacific coast for petroleum exploration and extraction.

The House voted 47-8 to prohibit drilling and exploration in the state’s marine waters, extending a temporary 10-year ban that was set to expire next year. The measure already passed the Senate and will be sent next to Gov. Kate Brown. Brown, a Democrat, has previously spoken out against offshore oil drilling and has pushed for strong climate protections in the state.

“For generations, Oregonians have defended the environment,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan, a Democrat who sponsored the initiative, in a statement. “Any oil drilling off the Oregon Coast could destroy the things we love in the state of Oregon — our pristine public beaches, and the local industries like fishing and tourism that drive our coastal economy.”

U.S. states can ban drilling up to 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) offshore but the bill seeks to limit drilling in federal waters farther out by prohibiting state agencies from assisting with offshore oil extraction. Brown previously enacted an executive order banning that activity.

The move comes as the federal government finalizes a plan to open up nearly all federal waters for oil exploration and drilling. An initial draft released in October identified dozes of potential oil leasing sites off the Pacific coast, including one off the coast of Oregon and Washington state.

California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey have bans similar to the Oregon legislation, according to Oceana, an ocean conservation advocacy group. At least eight other coastal states are considering similar prohibitions.

The U.S. Department of the Interior plans to release an update to its offshore drilling proposal in the coming weeks, and it could remove previously identified areas of sale.

The oil industry has not identified much commercial potential for oil and gas in the coastal waters near Oregon and Washington. The Western States Petroleum Association, which represents oil interests in the West, has said there is currently “no oil production or refinement in Oregon, on or offshore.”

But Oregon lawmakers say an offshore drilling ban would protect the state’s $2.5 billion coastal economy.

“The potential and irreversible effects of oil pollution on marine ecosystems and maritime economies do not warrant the questionable, short-term benefits that might be gained from offshore oil and gas exploration,” said Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House.


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