OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, opposing President Donald Trump’s proposal to allow oil and gas drilling off Washington’s coast and asking that Washington be exempted.
If Washington is not removed from the plan, Ferguson warns Zinke he will file a lawsuit.
“As a fourth-generation Washingtonian, I know this part of my state very well,” Ferguson writes in his letter. “Twenty years ago, I spent a week hiking from the Hoh River north to Shi Shi Beach. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Washington State’s coast is a special place, and it deserves protection.”
Washingtonians took an estimated 4.1 million trips to Washington’s coast in 2014, generating $481 million for Washington’s economy. Commercial fishing and seafood processing added another $117 million that year. Washington’s coast is also vital to coastal communities and tribes, and home to diverse and unique ecosystems.
Oil and gas exploration would put all of this at risk.
In his letter, Ferguson writes:
“On January 9, 2018, Secretary Zinke announced that he had granted an exemption to Florida, sparing that state from the risks and burdens of drilling and exploration off its shores. Every reason identified by the Secretary in announcing his decision also applies to Washington. Were the Department to grant one state an exemption without an identified process and established criteria, it would contravene the regulatory framework and processes that states rely on for fair and lawful treatment. Thus, I ask that Washington receive the same exemption as Florida, and that no drilling or exploration be considered or take place off our coast.
“If, on the other hand, the Department of Interior seeks to put Washington’s coastal communities at risk, my office will initiate litigation against the Department to protect our coast.”