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OR Lawmakers Look at Keeping Coastline "Oil Rig Free"

February 3, 2010

SALEM, Ore. - President Obama said in his State of the Union address that the country needs to make "tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development." In Salem this week, the Oregon Legislature is already weighing in on that idea.

Lawmakers are considering renewing a ban that expired in December on offshore oil and gas drilling in state coastal waters, which extend three miles from the shoreline, and making it permanent. The bill (HB 3613) had a hearing on Tuesday in the House Committee on Environment and Water.

Terry Thompson, a long-time commercial fisherman and current Lincoln County commissioner, says the risk of an accident or oil spill has to be taken into account.

"We have seen different places in the country where there has been oil spills and pollution, and Oregon has spent years trying to develop a clean environment, so this fits right with what our historic attitudes have been."

In his area, Thompson says people would rather see a boost to the industries they already have, including tourism and recreation, marine research and fishing.

"We're looking for jobs - we need 'em very bad on the West coast - but we have jobs in the fishing industry already. We don't want to lose any of our existing jobs, because just trading jobs does not make good sense."

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Dist. 46); it has 20 cosponsors in the House, four in the Senate. Thompson says state agencies, sport and commercial fishermen, and environmental groups all support the ban; the only question he has heard so far is whether it should be permanent, or revisited after ten years.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR