Gov. Kate Brown's office says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has agreed to consider exempting Oregon from Trump administration plans to resume offshore drilling in U.S. coastal waters. Zinke should not only consider an exemption, he should grant it — and do the same for the governors of other coastal states who request it.
On Jan. 4, the Interior Department announced 47 potential leases on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States — the largest 5-year lease program ever proposed and the first major expansion of offshore drilling floated since the Reagan administration. The new proposal included 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in Washington, Oregon and California, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine off the Atlantic coast.
Opposition to the plan was swift and bipartisan. In California — which has granted no new leases since a catastrophic spill off Santa Barbara fouled beaches in 1969 — Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement, along with Oregon's Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, vowing to "do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, both Republicans, also blasted the plan, citing the risk to their states' coastlines.
Less than a week later, Zinke announced that Florida was "off the table" after a conversation with Scott.
The rationale for giving Florida a pass? Tourism. The fact that Scott is a Republican, the governor of a swing state and expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson surely had nothing to do with it. Nor did the fact that President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort happens to be in Florida.
"I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” Zinke said after meeting with Scott last week.
Unique? Heavily reliant on tourism?
Oregon's coastline rivals any in the world for its stunning beauty, and every inch of it is publicly accessible. Tourism is the linchpin of the coastal economy. California, too, has famous beaches you may have heard about, but like Oregon and Washington, it's a blue state with a Democratic governor.
Give Zinke some credit for at least agreeing to consider Kate Brown's request to exempt Oregon from resumed drilling leases. He also talked Friday with Inslee and Jerry Brown.
Still, it's worth noting that, of the 47 potential leases in Zinke's original plan, just one is listed for Washington and Oregon combined. The other six on the Pacific Coast are off California. Taking the one Pacific Northwest lease off the table would barely make a dent in the overall proposal.
And it's not as though offshore drilling hasn't been happening all along. It has — just not off Oregon. While California has issued no new state leases since the 1969 spill and no new federal leases have been granted since 1984, offshore drilling under old leases continues. There are 23 oil platforms in federal waters off California and four in state waters (inside 3 miles), plus four artificial islands off Long Beach and Ventura County, producing oil to the tune of 11 million gallons in 2016.
Ramping up leasing again would only increase the chances of a major spill. We don't have Florida's hurricanes, but we have the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and California has the San Andreas Fault.
Zinke should listen to the bipartisan chorus of opposition to the drilling plan, and act accordingly.