New law sponsored by coastal legislators defends Oregon’s coast from the threat of new oil and gas development
SALEM — Governor Kate Brown today signed Senate Bill 256 into law, creating a new line of defense against offshore oil and gas drilling that could undermine the coast’s thriving tourism, recreation and fishing industries. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Roblan, Representative Brock Smith and Representative Gomberg, makes permanent a moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Oregon’s Territorial Sea that had been set to expire in 2020. It also blocks the development of new piers, pipelines and other infrastructure in state waters required to support oil, gas and sulphur drilling further offshore.
“The federal government’s proposal to open most American waters to offshore drilling would have opened our shores, our wildlife, our communities, and our economy to the threat of devastation from an oil spill. It was a move that undermined decades of bipartisan coastal protection and turned its back on our commitment to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Governor Brown. “This legislation is the product of Oregonian voices speaking loudly for Oregonian values and taking a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core laws that protect our environment.”
Governor Brown was joined at the signing ceremony by lawmakers and advocates, including the bill’s chief co-sponsors.
“Our ocean resources and their coastal economies are worth more than the limited possibilities off the Oregon Coast for drilling,” said Rep. Brock Smith. “I’m very proud of the bipartisanship leadership we’ve had in protecting what’s important to our coastal communities.”
This legislation was a response to a federal proposal released last January to open 90% of U.S. waters—including the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and California—to new oil and gas leasing. Oregonians submitted more than 30,000 comments on the federal plan, and several communities have passed resolutions opposing it, including the cities of Newport, Toledo, Port Orford, Gold Beach, Lincoln City, Yachats and Portland, the Siletz Tribal Council, and the ports of Newport and Toledo.
There has also been a strong response from the business community, with more than 2,400 companies coming together to form the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast. Northwest EcoTours, Pacific Ocean Harvesters, Local Ocean Seafood, Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters and Cleanline Surfshop are among its members.
According to the National Ocean Economics Program, Oregon’s ocean economy is worth $2.5 billion annually, and supports 33,000 jobs. More than 25,000 of those jobs are in tourism, recreation and fishing, the sectors that stand to lose the most from an oil spill. Oregon is one of several states that has taken action to protect its coastal economy from the threat of oil drilling. California passed similar legislation last year, and Washington is currently working on oil spill prevention legislation. Several Atlantic states and Hawai’i are also working on drilling bans.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to release its revised federal drilling proposal this month.