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Interior Secretary Downplays Possibility Of Drilling Off Of Oregon, Washington Coasts

File photo of an oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke expressed doubt drilling would ever happen along the Pacific Northwest coast.

In congressional testimony Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said he has heard the strong opposition from the West Coast to the Trump administration's plan for offshore oil and gas drilling. He expressed doubt drilling would ever happen along the Pacific Northwest coast.

Zinke appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee for a review of the Interior Department's budget. Olympic Peninsula Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Washington, quizzed Zinke on offshore drilling.

"I'm hoping I can ask you today if you are prepared to announce that you'll withdraw our state from consideration,” Kilmer said.

Zinke said he would keep all coastal states in the planning process until it plays out. But then he basically said don't worry about it.

"There is little or no resources of oil or gas off the coasts of Oregon or Washington,” Zinke said. “There is no infrastructure to support an oil or gas industry off the coast of Oregon or Washington. And there is, I would say, passionate opposition to do so."

Zinke said he's hoping to provide resolution when his agency completes its plan for offshore leasing by the fall.

Back in January, the Trump administration announced a proposal to open up almost the entire outer continental shelf of the contiguous United States to new oil and gas leases. The idea immediately drew wide, bipartisan opposition from state and local elected officials in the Northwest. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson warned the state would sue if the proposal moved forward.

Early on, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, asked Zinke to withdraw their states’ waters from consideration as drilling territories after Zinke quickly removed Florida at the request of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"Drilling off our coasts risks our economy and way of life," Kilmer reiterated Wednesday. "A spill would threaten fisheries, shellfish growers, tourism, and jobs across our region."


In January, Zinke framed the rationale for expanded offshore oil and gas drilling as "unleashing" America's potential.

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said in a prepared statement.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.