Washington state senators join forces with senators from Oregon and California to permanently ban offshore drilling in all federal waters off their coasts.

Following the oil spill nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico, Washington state’s two senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, are co-sponsoring a legislative ban on offshore drilling in federal waters. And they are not alone. Joining the two Democrats are California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

The senators stated in a press release that the legislation would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently protect the $34 billion coastal economies of the three states, which support nearly 570,000 jobs in Washington, Oregon and California.

In Washington state alone, the coastal region supports 162,000 jobs and generates $9.5 billion in economic activity mostly from commercial and recreational fishing. Senator Cantwell said at a press conference on Thursday,

“President Bush and Congress made a mistake in 2008 by letting the 20 year ban on drilling off Washington state expire,”  “At that time, ‘drill, baby, drill’ was the popular rallying cry for some, even though we tried to point out that offshore drilling would never lower gas prices or impact our foreign oil dependence.

Now, with the horrific oil rig accident continuing to unfold before us in the Gulf, it is all too clear that the majority of our constituents were right all along in opposing offshore drilling. We must act to safeguard our precious coastal waters and end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

It is simply unacceptable to risk irreparable harm to our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems just to feed our oil addiction with a short-term fix – especially when new technologies are emerging that give us real alternatives. Ultimately, the overarching lesson from the mess in the Gulf is that we need to diversify our nation off of oil.”

The Pacific Coast senators have several great arguments for sponsoring this ban. First, the West Coast is seismically active and susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. A natural disaster might not only cause a catastrophic oil spill but also seriously hinder crucial response capability.

Even more interesting is that the West Coast supplies only enough oil to last 500 days – less time than it can take to clean up a serious oil spill. And Washington state’s offshore oil supply would only power the nation’s oil addiction for less than a month. To give us some perspective, the release stated that if all vehicles’ tires were properly inflated, cars would achieve more efficient gas mileage, saving the equivalent of all the oil off the West Coast in only 25 days. Sounds logical to me.

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