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Democrats, Republicans take different views of Trump offshore oil lease proposal

Washington Democrats continued their assault on a Trump administration’s proposal that could open the state’s coast to offshore oil drilling, but Republicans argued it wasn’t a major concern.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell gave the opening speech by a string of Democrats from coastal states against the proposal on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, saying the administration is ignoring the value of fishing, tourism and other industries along the coast while supporting “big oil jobs.”

Existing industries that rely on clean water would be put at risk by an oil spill from an offshore well, she said.

While Washington is submitting information on the value of those jobs, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke removed Florida from the list of states where offshore leases would be allowed before Florida even submitted its data, she said: “The people of Washington don’t want to have political games played.”

Cantwell’s seatmate, Sen. Patty Murray, closed the speeches, saying she was “appalled” when Zinke announced he would remove Florida from the list. The state has a Republican governor who is running for the U.S. Senate.

“I can say I was not stunned when that courtesy was not extended to Washington state,” Murray said.

Legislative Republicans in Olympia criticized Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s promise Monday to sue the Trump administration for failing to follow federal laws on establishing or changing regulations if the Washington coast is opened to leasing.

“The solution to everything is to sue,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, adding that Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee should consider “adult conversations” with federal officials.

Inslee said Monday, however, that he has talked with Zinke and asked for the same consideration as Florida but received no assurance that would happen.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who worked for part of last year in a temporary job with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said he knows of no company interested in drilling off the coast of Washington because there are no known oil reserves there.

“If there’s no oil there, what difference does it make if you open it up or not?” Ericksen said.