Coastal oil drilling opponents speak out in Olympia

Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler joined state and local leaders in Olympia on Monday to voice opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to open coastal waters to oil and gas drilling and exploration.

The opposition event was staged just before the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a public open house on the controversial proposal at the Olympia Red Lion Hotel.

“Nearly 5 million people visited Ocean Shores in 2017,” Dingler said. “Our beach town’s economy is 100 percent dependent on tourism, recreation, and fishing, and we will do everything we can to protect our jobs and beautiful beaches from being put at risk from an oil spill. We’ve gone through that before, and have vowed to fight this offshore drilling plan tooth and nail.”

Ocean Shores was the first city in Washington to pass a resolution against the Trump proposal.

Dingler joined state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, Mark Ballo of Brady’s Oysters and Johnnes Ariens of Westport among others to “voice their opposition to a federal proposal that would open up 90 percent of the nation’s coastline—including Washington’s—to oil and gas drilling. The proposal, issued by the Department of Interior in January, threatens Washington’s fishing, tourism and recreation economy valued at hundreds of millions of dollars,” said a joint news release.

Coastal business owners and citizens pointed to the long-term impacts from the oil spills of Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and the 1988 Nestucca spill at the mouth of Grays Harbor, on fisheries and businesses.

“As a hotel owner and surfer on the Washington coast, the idea of offshore drilling this close to home is terrifying,” said Ariens, who owns Loge Camps in Westport and also was representing the Surfrider Foundation. “People come from around the world to enjoy world-class recreation on our beaches. Our jobs depend on a clean and thriving coast to survive. I saw what happened to tourism and recreation businesses in the Gulf after their oil spill. We can’t have that happen to us here.”

The BOEM open house was rescheduled after one in Tacoma last month had to be cancelled because of an unspecified threat. The speakers made their statements in a room adjacent to the BOEM meeting because “the government will not allow for public testimony, only written comments,” the news release said.

It marks the only scheduled public meeting on the proposal in the state.

On Jan. 4, the Trump Administration released the 2019-2024 draft plan to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. Washington officials, including Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, all voiced their opposition, joining coastal leaders in urging the Department of the Interior “to protect their economies and communities. The Pacific Coast has been closed to new drilling for over 3 decades, with the last federal lease sales taking place in 1984. Commercial, tribal, and sport fishing, tourism and recreation businesses are threatened by the prospect of increased risks of an oil spill.”

The current draft proposed plan includes one lease sale off Washington and Oregon.

Others to speak against the proposal on Monday included Kyle Deerkop of Pacific Seafoods, and Jess Helsley of the Coast Salmon Partnership. The event before the open house was known as “The People’s Hearing, and was organized by the Stand Up to Oil coalition, including the Surfrider Organization, the Washington Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, Citizens for a Clean Harbor, and the group.

“The Coast Salmon Foundation and partners across the state are fighting to rebuild their populations, but it is an uphill battle,” Helsley said. “Many populations cannot survive any additional major threat in their waters. We cannot allow the risky business of offshore drilling off our coast. A spill in these waters would devastate our coastal ecosystems, communities, jobs, and our cultural way of life.”

Deerkop noted Pacific Seafoods employs up to 3,500 people in the “mission of delivering the healthiest and most sustainable protein on the planet.”

“Drilling off of Washington or any of the other West Coast states would put the livelihood of our employees and the natural resources at risk,” Deerkop said.

Rebecca Ponzio of the Stand Up to Oil campaign also spoke against the proposal: “Washington has said loud and clear, we won’t be the doormat for the fossil fuel industry. Drilling off our shores is a needless give-away to dirty energy companies at a time when we should be investing in our transition to a clean energy economy.”

Public comments on the Draft Proposed Program can be made in writing or online through March 9. After the comments are received and environmental reviews conducted, the Proposed Program will be released, triggering another comment period. The Final Proposed Program is expected by 2019.

Comments may be mailed to:

Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD), 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 20166-9216