LONG BEACH — Local and regional reactions were positive about a move in the U.S. House to permanently remove from consideration acreage for offshore leasing on both the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf.
However, opening more of the U.S. coast to energy exploration is a key priority of the Trump administration and the Republican-led U.S. Senate is viewed as unlikely to go along with the drilling ban.
U.S. Rep Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, joined last week in passing H.R. 1941 on a vote of 238-189, which amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
“Washington residents do not believe that drilling off our coast is in our best economic interest, or in the best interest of our coastal ecosystem. I have supported specific solutions to maintain domestic supplies of energy and achieve energy independence, but those efforts shouldn’t include offshore drilling near communities and citizens who don’t support it. Washington supports a $50 billion dollar maritime economy and 191,000 maritime-related jobs and I want to be sure those coastal economies are not put at risk,” Herrera Beutler said.
Surfrider Washington, a coastal environmental advocacy group, said in a press release that local businesses applaud the House vote.
“Our coast is rural and jobs are few and far between, so a clean coast and healthy ocean is crucial to our local economy,” Tiffany Turner, co-owner of the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, said in the release. “Our restaurants, our fisheries, our tourism and recreation, you name it, everyone’s livelihood is tied to the ocean. People come here to experience beautiful beaches, not ones tarnished by an oil spill.”
A wave of opposition to oil drilling has come from Washington coastal communities and treaty tribes, according to Surfrider. In the past year, the towns and cities of Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ilwaco, Long Beach, Montesano, Ocean Shores, Raymond, Seattle, South Bend and Westport, as well as Clallam and Pacific counties have passed resolutions “urging the federal government to protect the millions of jobs and businesses that rely on a healthy ocean,” the organization said.
“The Pacific coast economy is inextricably tied to clean coastal waters and beaches, as well as a stable climate,” Vipe Desai with the 4,000-member Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast, said via Surfrider.
“President Trump’s drilling proposal threatens our world-class coastline. We applaud the House of Representatives for listening to the American people in trying to block the administration’s dirty and dangerous offshore drilling plan with this bill to place a permanent ban on new offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Washingtonians want these bills to pass through Congress,” said Gus Gates, Washington policy manager with Surfrider Foundation.
The Pacific Coast has been closed to new drilling for decades, with the last federal lease sales taking place in 1984. In 2014, Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the coast, translating to an estimated $481 million dollars through hotel visits, shopping, dining and other trip-related expenditures.