WASHINGTON NEWS SERVICE: TACOMA, Wash. - Conservation groups are raising alarms over the Trump administration's decision to allow drilling off U.S. coasts. The Interior Department is proposing opening up 90 percent of federal waters to oil and gas drilling.
The new draft five-year plan includes 47 lease sales - the largest number in history - in waters off the entire West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and Alaska. Sales are planned in Oregon and Washington in 2021.
But Steve Mashuda, the managing attorney for oceans at Earthjustice in Seattle, says the public will have a chance to weigh in on this proposal.
"It's very important that people stand up, let their voices be heard, let the administration know that we're not willing to sacrifice our oceans for big oil," he says.
A 60-day public comment period on regulations.gov will begin next week. A public hearing is set for February 5 in Tacoma. There hasn't been an offshore lease sale in federal waters off of Oregon or Washington since 1964.
Mashuda says there are fears of another catastrophic spill occurring in our offshore waters.
"We saw it in the Gulf most recently in 2010," he adds. "People don't want that, and business owners don't that, fisherman don't want that, and so there's really a large and bipartisan opposition to drilling for oil in these biologically rich waters."
This plan is separate from the recent proposal to lift safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Mashuda says the proposal on offshore drilling will also put the United States behind in the fight against climate change and could hurt wildlife such as orcas, which already are endangered.