Washington

After flip on Florida, Inslee wants Washington waters saved from drilling, too

Rain showers fall to the north of the beach at Kalaloch Lodge in Washington’s Olympic National Park. An offshore drilling plan announced Thursday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke includes much of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, where any such exploration is prohibited.
Rain showers fall to the north of the beach at Kalaloch Lodge in Washington’s Olympic National Park. An offshore drilling plan announced Thursday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke includes much of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, where any such exploration is prohibited. The News Tribune

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week removed Florida’s coastal waters from a draft plan for oil and gas drilling. Now Gov. Jay Inslee wants the same consideration for Washington’s offshore waters.

In a letter sent Thursday to Zinke, Gov. Jay Inslee requested his own meeting with Zinke to make a case for protecting Washington’s waters from oil and gas exploration.

“I believe that every state should be granted a similar opportunity to protect its marine and coastal water,’’ he wrote. He noted that Washington, like Florida, has a strong coastal tourism and recreation economy that could be harmed by an oil spill, and that he previously requested Washington not be included in new lease sales.

Zinke last week released a sweeping plan to open nearly all waters off the nation’s coastlines to oil and gas drilling, including a new lease sale off Oregon and Washington proposed for 2021.

But after a meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Zinke this week released a statement that said, “Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver, and “I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

The move to remove Florida’s offshore waters from the draft plan was a boost for Scott, a conservative Republican ally of Trump. In his written statement, Zinke described Scott as a “straightforward leader that can be trusted.”

Inslee, a Democrat and harsh critic of the Trump administration, is one of a host of politicians from coastal states opposed to drilling who hope Zinke can be persuaded to further restrict the offshore drilling.

Suddenly excluding certain states from future consideration, while Washington state has long been united in opposition to oil and gas production off our coast is arbitrary, shortsighted and inconsistent with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

In Washington, they include Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, who released statements Thursday asking Zinke to remove Washington’s offshore waters from new oil and gas exploration.

“Suddenly excluding certain states from future consideration, while Washington state has long been united in opposition to oil and gas production off our coast is arbitrary, shortsighted and inconsistent with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,” said Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift on Thursday released a statement that described the five-year draft plan for offshore drilling as an “open and public process” and said there will be revisions. The statement said Zinke intends to meet or talk with any governor who submits a request.

The draft plan now under development would run from 2019 through 2024. In the Pacific Northwest region, an Interior Department map denoted a strip of ocean close by Washington’s coast as places where oil was most likely to be found.

But within the lease sale area off the Washington and Oregon coasts, the estimated recoverable oil reserves are a modest 400 million barrels of crude, according to an Interior Department document released last week.

That is just a fraction of the 4.59 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves estimated to lie in the Atlantic Ocean offshore area or the 26.61 billion barrels estimated off Alaska.

It is still unclear how much industry interest there would be in offshore drilling in the area when there may be many other more promising areas to explore offshore or known reserves to develop onshore.

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