The Oregon House Environment and Water committee today heard testimony on House Bill 3613 which would prohibit leasing for purposes of exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur in Oregon’s territorial sea. A previous moratorium on offshore oil activities in Oregon expired on January 2, 2010.
Oceana Vice President Jim Ayers testified at today's hearing on the dangers of offshore drilling and the need for further science and precautionary ecosystem-based management to protect Oregon coastal waters.
"Offshore drilling is an incredibly risky proposition and a bad business for Oregon, one where local communities and ocean ecosystems bear all the risk while multi-billion dollar oil companies reap all the rewards," said Ayers. "There’s a lot of science that still needs to be done to ensure that Oregon’s incredibly complex ocean ecosystems and rich living marine resources are protected; adding a new and unnecessary threat makes no sense at all."
Prior to his work for Oceana, Mr. Ayers was involved in the aftermath of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, serving as Chief of Staff for the Governor of the State of Alaska for seven years, and as the Executive Director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
"Too often offshore drilling is presented as an engineering challenge without considering the incredible complexity and fragility of ocean ecosystems and the enormous long-term destruction oil can cause in the ocean," said Ayers. "We're still learning about the horrific long-term impacts of oil in the sea, and the more we learn, the more we understand just how dangerous and devastating offshore drilling can be."
Ayers also called for a move away from carbon-based fuels and towards clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind. Oil and other fossil fuels are the primary agents of greenhouse gas emissions, which are already changing the planet’s climate and raising levels of acidity in the ocean. Oil drilling also brings the inevitable risks of spills and accidents.
"There’s a risk of spills when we drill and move oil around, and once the oil is burned it only adds to our enormous climate change problem," said Ayers. "There is absolutely no justification for the long-term risks of oil drilling for the sake of short-term economic gain; instead, Oregon has a real chance to embrace the enormous potential from offshore wind and other sustainable, renewable energy projects that do not threaten Oregon's amazing ocean ecosystems."
"After all, there’s no such thing as a wind spill," said Ayers.