Our Waters Are Worth Protecting, Too: Why We Must Preserve Our Coasts

Chatting with local officials during a recent visit to Cape Disappointment in southwest Washington state. This coast, like so many in Washington and the Pacific Northwest, could be threatened under the Trump Administration’s recent move to expand oil and gas leasing in nearly all of the United States’ continental waters.

Washingtonians don’t take our healthy coasts for granted. The continental waters on the West Coast are one of Washington state’s richest and most cherished natural resources, sustaining communities along the Pacific Northwest for centuries and helping define our regional culture for generations. Many of us count on our coasts for our food or for work: Washington state’s coasts are home to numerous seafood and tourism-dependent communities, supporting a $50 billion dollar maritime economy and 191,000 maritime related jobs. Likewise, countless families and travelers seeking outdoor recreation flock to our shores throughout the year to experience the natural beauty and sport of our iconic shorelines.

Keeping our Washington state shores pristine isn’t just about leisure and cosmetics — preserving our coastal waters is a critical factor in promoting a healthy regional ecosystem and economy that supports vital jobs, industries, fish and wildlife, and public health opportunities that many families in our state rely on.

That’s why I was shocked when Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the Trump Administration’s plans to draft and implement new oil and gas leasing guidelines that would expand access to offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all of our nation’s continental waters, including coastal waters off Washington state. Despite years of fact-finding and public input that has already established the need to protect ecologically-sensitive areas like our coasts, once again President Trump and his cabinet have decided to prioritize Big Oil and the relentless pursuit of profit over the interest of Washington state families and without regard to what it may mean for our environment, public health, or economy. I was even more appalled when it was reported that Secretary Zinke was planning to remove Florida’s waters from consideration after meeting with their governor and hearing his pleas — a courtesy that was not extended to Washington state.

Keeping our Washington state shores pristine isn’t just about leisure and cosmetics — preserving our coastal waters is a critical factor in promoting a healthy regional ecosystem and economy that supports vital jobs, industries, fish and wildlife, and public health opportunities that many families in our state rely on.

So later, on my way back home from the other Washington and concerned about the potentially damaging impacts of Secretary Zinke’s decision on Washington state’s ecosystem, I asked my Twitter followers to join me in sending a message to the Interior Department to let them know that our healthy coasts are too important to our environment, economy, and culture to risk harmful oil and gas drilling by sharing photos of some of Washington state’s many important and pristine coastal areas:

The response was overwhelming.

Within hours, my timeline was filled with photos of beaches and coasts all along Washington state’s shoreline, and even photos from other coastal areas in the Pacific Northwest, from residents across Washington state and throughout the region who want their pristine coasts preserved and were eager to raise their voices to safeguard our coasts.

Even some of my Senate and House colleagues tweeted out photos from their state’s waters being threatened by this short-sighted offshore drilling proposal:

I was inspired as I scrolled through the growing collection of photos illustrating the significance of our coasts, not just to our economy and environment but to our shared culture and identity. Our shores are where we fish, swim, exercise, and work, but also where our wildlife roams, our children play, and where we make lasting memories with our loved ones. The catalog of pictures mounting on social media served as a powerful reminder of how invaluable our healthy coasts are to our state’s character and future — and put the Trump Administration on notice. As the Interior Department hears public comment on its proposal from Washington state residents, I hope they hear loud and clear what Washingtonians have been saying for decades: the extreme environmental and ecological dangers posed by offshore oil and gas drilling are too great a risk for Washington state families.

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS

In all, I received literally hundreds of pictures from passionate and concerned Washingtonians, each one recalling the many reasons it has been decades since the waters off the coast of Washington have been considered for oil and gas leasing. It is not too late for the Interior Department to reverse its decision to expand offshore oil and gas drilling and instead focus on maintaining and strengthening existing regulations protecting the country’s continental waters. As we’ve learned over the last year, we must make our voices heard again and again to ensure that this Administration backs down from this misguided proposal — and as a voice for Washington state in the United States Senate, I will continue fighting against the Trump Administration’s efforts to leverage our environment to boost Big Oil’s bottom line and will never stop standing with families, workers, and small businesses to protect our coasts.

Today, and for future generations.


Washington state Senator Patty Murray is the third ranking Democrat and highest ranking women in the United States Senate. Senator Murray has long supported strengthening investments to protect Washington state’s ecologically-sensitive coastal waters and previously introduced legislation to permanently prohibit offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf off of Washington, Oregon, and California.

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