Today, the City Council of Portland unanimously passed a resolution opposing offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration off Oregon’s coast. Portland is following the lead of coastal communities, ports, and Tribal councils working to protect Oregon’s beaches, fisheries and tourism and recreation economy from the threat of an oil spill. It joins more than 80 West Coast communities in opposing the federal proposal released last January to open 90 percent of U.S. waters to oil and gas drilling.
“Portland is proud to stand alongside our sister cities all along the Oregon coast and around the state against the harmful federal proposal to expose our waters to oil and gas drilling,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Protecting the environment and the places that we treasure the most is a cause we’re ready to fight for.”
Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who presented the resolution, said “Portland supports Oregon’s coastal communities in opposition to oil and gas drilling off the Oregon coast. We are committed to protecting the marine environment in the Pacific Ocean, and the economies and well-being of the cities and counties along its shores. By passing this Resolution, we join coastal jurisdictions in challenging federal decisions endangering this precious resource.”
No new oil leases have been offered in federal waters off the Pacific coast since 1984, but a federal proposal calls for seven from 2019 to 2024, six off California and one off Oregon and Washington. The proposal met with immediate, bipartisan opposition, with state and local leaders around the country urging the federal government to protect the millions of jobs and businesses that rely on a healthy ocean. In Oregon, the cities of Port Orford, Newport, Lincoln City, Toledo, Yachats, Gold Beach, and now Portland have passed resolutions opposing any future offshore oil drilling. The Siletz Tribal Council and Ports of Toledo and Newport have also passed resolutions.
State lawmakers have responded to the overwhelming public opposition with legislation (SB 256)that would make Oregon’s current ban on drilling in state waters permanent while blocking the leasing of state tidelands for development of new infrastructure to support drilling in federal waters. Senate Bill 256 will also memorialize into law the new state policy opposing offshore drilling issued by Governor Kate Brown via Executive Order 18-28 last October.
Yesterday, the Oregon Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a hearing on SB 256. After listening to public comments, the Committee scheduled the bill for a work session on February 5, at which point the bill will be up for a vote and require a majority vote to proceed forward.
“For generations, Oregonians have defended the environment,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan. “Any oil/gas drilling could destroy the things we love in the state of Oregon – our pristine public beaches, and the local industries like fishing and tourism that drive our coastal economy.”
A healthy ocean is a major economic engine for Oregon’s coastal communities. Beyond the many fishing-related jobs, this includes small business owners who operate bed and breakfasts, restaurants, whale watching charters, and rentals for recreational equipment such as kayaks, surfboards, diving equipment, among others. A 2011 study by NaturalEquity, the Surfrider Foundation, and Ecotrust found that coastal recreation alone generates $2.4 billion per year.
“It’s wonderful to see Portland stand with Oregon’s coastal communities to safeguard our coast for generations to come,” said Ben Enticknap, Pacific Campaign Manager & Senior Scientist with Oceana. “It would be reckless and irresponsible to drill for oil off Oregon’s Pacific shores and put at risk our communities, local economy, and ocean wildlife.”
“How inspiring that collectively as a state we are choosing to support the local coastal economy, protect our wildlife and preserve the beauty of our coast for everyone to enjoy rather than entertain the interests of few for a limited time,” said Briana Bard of Surfrider Foundation’s Portland Chapter, who made the request of council last August. “If there is one thing Oregonians can agree on, regardless of hometown or political affiliation, it’s our love for the coast.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) received hundreds of thousands of public comments opposing last January’s “Draft Proposed Program” for new offshore drilling lease sales. Release of the revised proposal—known as the “Proposed Program is expected in the coming weeks. When it is released, members of the public will have another opportunity to weigh in via comments on BOEM’s website. The “Final Proposed Program” is expected to be completed by the year’s end.