Washington’s ‘passionate opposition’ may keep offshore drilling plans at bay

SEATTLE -- The Trump administration's plan to open up the country's coasts to offshore drilling is not gaining steam in Washington. In fact, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced this week he's heard the state's opposition loud and clear.

Zinke downplayed the possibility of drilling off of Washington's coast in front of a congressional committee Wednesday, where Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., pressed the secretary on his plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

"I know you told Sen. Cantwell you were going to mark Washington state down as opposed to drilling," Kilmer said to Zinke in the subcommittee hearing. "So I'm hoping I can ask you today if you're prepared to announce that you'd withdraw our state from consideration."

"There is little or no resources of oil or gas off the coasts of Oregon or Washington," Zinke replied. "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."

That passionate opposition comes from a bipartisan effort in the state to oppose offshore drilling. Representatives claim drilling would risk the local economy because a potential spill could threaten fisheries, shellfish growers, tourism and ultimately, jobs.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson warned Zinke he would sue the administration if it moves forward with its plan to drill off of Washington's coast.

Ferguson has yet to lose a case he's brought against the Trump administration.

"The message has been delivered loud and clear from the people of the state of Washington and to a certain degree, I appreciate him recognizing that," Ferguson told Q13 News. "My focus, of course, is on the law. Do I feel passionate about the issue? Of course I do, but that's no substitute for my standpoint whether it's lawful or unlawful.

"There's a reason we have yet to lose against the Trump administration," he added. "It's because we focus on the law and we take them to court and we beat them time and time again."

Ferguson said one of the constitutional issues in this case is that Florida and its Republican governor were able to get an exemption from drilling yet there is no obvious process to follow for other states to do the same.

While drilling off Washington's coast seems unlikely after Zinke's comments, until there's a firm commitment from the Interior Department, Washington's representatives say they are ready to sue if needed.