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Most West Coast Governors Bash Leasing Plan
The governors of Washington state, California, and Oregon on Jan. 4 condemned the plan announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make over 90 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf available for offshore oil and gas drilling.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a joint statement saying, "This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike. They've chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They've chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won't forget history or ignore science. For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action."
Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker, however, supports the five-year Interior plan, which includes 47 potential lease sales – 19 off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region. Combined, this is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National OCS Program's five-year lease schedule.
"The Department of Interior's draft five-year offshore leasing plan is an important step toward allowing Alaskans to responsibly develop our natural resources as we see fit," Walker said in his own statement. "My administration is committed to responsible resource development, and has established a pattern of working successfully with our Congressional Delegation and federal agencies to unleash Alaska’s energy potential. I thank Secretary Zinke for his Department’s work on this plan, and invite him to cooperatively engage with Alaskans as the plan’s development process continues. We look forward to continued dialogue to ensure that any offshore development takes into account environmental and safety concerns, and robust input from community residents who live, work, and subsist in the lease sale areas included in this proposed plan."
Zinke said the plan would open more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas to exploration and development, a reversal from the current program, which he said puts 94 percent of the OCS off limits.
"Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands, and parks," Zinke said, adding that the announcement "lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American energy dominance."