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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

July 31, 2014 at 5:45 PM

Inslee signs letter opposing coastal oil exploration

Gov. Jay Inslee has joined his counterparts in California and Oregon in signing a letter opposing new oil and gas leases in the waters off the West Coast. A letter dated July 30 and released Thursday by Inslee’s office, sums up the governor’s qualms to Sally Jewell, U.S. Interior secretary.

“While new technology reduces the risk of a catastrophic event such as the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, a sizable spill anywhere along our shared coast would have a devastating impact on our population, recreation, natural resources, and our ocean and coastal dependent economies,” reads the letter.

In the letter, the three governors go on talk about their efforts to promote more clean energy and mention the wind project and wave-energy test facility off the Oregon coast.

Tussles over whether to drill on the West Coast aren’t new. All you have to do is go back to the Bush administration — the first Bush administration — to see state officials resisting federal government efforts to drill on Washington coastline.

That time around, drilling was proposed by President George H.W. Bush. This time, drilling guidelines are being drafted by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Of course, there isn’t much oil on the Washington coast anyway — at least according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

“Oil exploration is of relatively little importance in Washington because coastal areas north of Grayland are the only parts of the state with reasonable potential for oil discoveries,” reads the DNR’s oil and gas resources website.

A 1989 research paper drafted by the DNR’s Division of Geology and Earth Resources put the chances of a major oil bed off the Washington coast as a “two” on a scale of one to 10.

“However, the best remaining unexplored [frontier] basins, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as 7 or 8 on this same scale,” the report reads.

But that’s never stopped people from trying. Attempts at gas and oil exploration on the Olympic Peninsula date back to 1901, according to the paper. Since then, at least 116 “wildcat” or exploratory wells were drilled on the western part of the peninsula and offshore. Those include four deep wells drilled off the coast in the 1960s, according to the paper.

You can read the letter, which is also signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, here.

 

Comments | More in Governor, Politics Northwest, State government | Topics: drilling, gov. jay inslee, oil and gas leases

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