Oregon plans to permanently block offshore drilling off of its coast, in the latest indicator that efforts by the Trump administration to expand oil and gas exploration and development in federal waters remain highly unpopular in coastal states. The move also comes amid a tightening race for governor that could significantly impact how Oregon addresses climate issues going forward.
In a Facebook Live event on Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that the state will move to ban offshore drilling, a move supported by green groups and environmental advocates.
“Across Oregon, we are certainly seeing the strain of climate change,” Brown said, pointing to increasingly devastating wildfires, as well as persistent algal blooms in state waters and the rise of deadly storms, trends climate scientists have attributed to global warming.
“At a time when the states are doing more than the federal government to protect the environment, the Trump administration is trying to allow oil rigs to be built off of every single coast line in America except for Florida,” Brown said. “I’m tired of waiting for the federal government to come to their senses and realize this is a terrible mistake.”
The governor said she will sign an executive order in coming days to formalize the ban, and that she will be working with lawmakers to ensure “that no future governor can reverse this executive order with the stroke of a pen.” Pointing to a recent dire Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighting the pressing need to combat climate change, Brown said she would continue to fight the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks.
No drilling has occurred off of Oregon’s coast since 1964 and the state technically only controls the area three miles out from its shores. But the move further establishes Oregon’s stance on a highly controversial issue, one that has seen states almost unanimously pitted against the federal government.
Brown has historically been critical of offshore drilling, slamming the Interior Department’s moves to open virtually all federal waters to fossil fuel interests earlier this year in January. But Monday’s announcement came tinged with politics: Brown is currently in a tight race for re-election, facing a challenge from State Representative Knute Buehler (R).
Both Brown and Buehler agree that climate change threatens Oregon, but that’s where similarities between the two candidates on climate issues largely stop.
Brown has spoken out about the impacts of climate change on states like Oregon, fighting the Trump administration’s environmental regulatory rollbacks, and touting support for the Paris climate agreement. Buehler, by contrast, has a more mixed record — the candidate has pushed his green credentials, but he has received nearly $1 million in campaign donations from state organizations and lobbying groups that have largely supported relaxing environmental regulations. And where Brown has offered her support for a clean energy jobs bill and increased funding for public transportation, Buehler has voiced opposition.
As she announced Oregon’s plans to combat offshore drilling, Brown was joined by tribal leaders and environmental advocates from organizations including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
“This election for governor will have enormous consequences for our environment,” said Doug Moore, executive director of Oregon’s LCV chapter. “We often take for granted clean air, clean water, clean energy, and the stakes couldn’t be higher this year in Oregon.”
Moore went on to argue Brown would stand against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental protections, while Buehler would support them.
Opposition to the Interior Department’s plans to massively expand offshore drilling extends far beyond Oregon. All of the West Coast states impacted have heatedly opposed these efforts, including California, which has taken its own steps to sharply curtail offshore drilling. On the East Coast, all of the state governors have voiced opposition with the exception of Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine.
Florida won a controversial waiver exempting the state from the plan mere days after the Trump administration announced it, but a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling will still be on the ballot in November, in an indicator of its unpopularity with voters. In other coastal states like North Carolina, opposition to offshore drilling is also helping some progressive candidates even in deep-red districts.
The nation’s toughest ban on offshore drilling is already in place in New Jersey, a state that kicked up its opposition efforts two weeks ago with a lawsuit against the Trump administration demanding to know why Florida was offered a waiver while other states were not. The suit came after the administration failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the state.