Offshore drilling ban poised to pass Oregon Legislature

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon is poised to permanently ban offshore drilling, and to prohibit any drilling infrastructure from crossing state waters.

The Statesman Journal reports a Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on Senate Bill 256, which would make permanent an existing 10-year drilling moratorium, which is set to expire next year.

"We don't want offshore oil drilling, not in Oregon, not now, not ever," said Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who is one of the bill's 22 sponsors. "The potential benefits out there for this kind of exploration are speculative and limited, but the potential consequences are dire."

The bill hasn't faced any opposition, and sponsors said they expect bipartisan support.

A year ago, the Trump administration proposed allowing oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Oregon and Washington for the first time, and offering new leases in California for the first time since 1984. Its plan also would open drilling in new areas of the Arctic, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Since then, five coastal Oregon cities have adopted resolutions opposing offshore drilling.

Drilling opponents cite risks and disruption to Oregon's fishing and tourism industries.

"The potentially irreversible effects of oil pollution on marine ecosystems and dependent economies do not warrant the questionable, short-term economic benefits that might be gained from offshore oil and gas development on the Oregon coast," said Ben Enticknap, of the ocean protection group Oceana.

The moratorium, which began in 2000 and was renewed in 2010, covers Oregon's Territorial Sea, which extends 3 miles from shore. It prohibits the state from leasing any of those areas for exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur.

Drilling still could take place in federal waters, which extend from three to 200 miles offshore. But SB 256 would prohibit any activities within state waters, such as building new infrastructure, that would support drilling farther offshore.

Nine other coastal states — Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina — are considering legislation to ban or restrict offshore drilling near their coastlines. California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey already have passed similar laws.