Council unanimously opposes coastal oil and gas drilling

Ocean Shores takes a stand against pending Trump administration proposal

The Ocean Shores City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution that opposes offshore oil and gas activities off the coast in response to a pending Trump administration proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters.

“Our Washington coast is one of the most wonderful places in this entire world,” said Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler. “We need to be the protectors of our coast. We need the ones who pay attention because others may or may not do that.”

Of particular concern is the use of so-called seismic airgun blasting in exploration.

“The current administration has expressed interest in opening the Pacific Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration, which includes the use of seismic airguns (that) fire intense blasts of compressed air that rank just behind military explosives as the loudest source of noise in the ocean, every 10-12 seconds, 24 hours a day, for months on end,” the resolution states.

Such testing has “proven to disrupt and displace marine life, such as whales that rely on sound for feeding and mating. It also can impair “the health of many fish and shellfish species,” including rockfish, crab and oysters.

“The vast majority of Washington state’s ocean wealth stems from tourism and recreation, fishing, and aquaculture, which benefits from a clean and healthy ocean and coast,” the resolution states.

Offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration “places coastal communities at economic and ecological risk from oil spills and the pollution brought by routine drilling operations and onshore industrialization, threatening the livelihoods of commercial and recreational fisherman and small businesses that rely on a clean and healthy ocean and beaches,” the resolution said.

Another concern is that offshore drilling may require “significant onshore infrastructure, such as pipelines or refineries, which would harm the character of Washington State’s coastline and could exacerbate wetlands loss, storm surge and sea level rise impacts.”

Impacts from offshore oil and gas drilling “could extend far beyond immediately surrounding areas and severely impact communities that rely on the robust economy of the marine industry.

The council voted to adopted the resolution 6-0 after public testimony and brief discussion.

“The city of Ocean Shores finds that offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration unnecessarily risks our economic and ecological health and therefore opposes any plan or legislation which encourages oil and gas development and exploration offshore that would impact the citizens of Washington State,” the city’s statement concludes.

Copies of the city resolution are to be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee, U. S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell; U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer; State Sens. Kevin Van de Wege and Dean Takko; State Reps. Steve Tharinger, Mike Chapman, Brian Blake, and Jim Walsh.

Dingler and others cited spills from the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska and the Nestucca barge oil spill that fouled 110 miles of Washington coastline in 1988 and swith a severe impact on seabirds and marine life.

“We need to be aware of those and learn from history,” Dingler said. “The more drilling that’s going on off our coast, the more incidents we are going to have.”

Ocean Shores resident Richard Wills said the rich oil companies effectively ask the tax-paying public to pay all the expenses for drilling while reaping all the profit.

“That’s wrong, so I desperately hope we do not allow the oligarchs to go and ruin our coastline,” Wills said.

Arthur Grunbaum, president of Friends of Grays Harbor, also spoke in favor of the resolution. He helped lead opposition to the recent crude oil-by-rail shipping proposal through the Grays Harbor Port, and is a member of the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council among other coastal affiliations.

“I’m pleased to hear the council is considering a resolution that is opposed to offshore oil and gas drilling exploration,” Grunbaum said. “I hope you pass this resolution and become leaders in our community to preserve and protect the irreplaceable marine asset of our coast and our estuaries.”

Former City Council member Jackie Farra added: “I just want you to stomp your feet and not allow this. Just talk to everyone and tell them we are out of business if the oil comes to this peninsula.”

Larry Thevik, the president of the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishing Association and a 47-year resident of Ocean Shores, said he was also speaking on behalf of the Washington Trollers Association and the Westport Charterboat Association. A recent report showed that 2,300 jobs and $$230 million annually comes from fishing activity in Grays Harbor, and 31 percent of Grays Harbor’s work force and 36 percent of Pacific County’s work force are dependant on marine resources-related jobs.

“I want to thank you mayor and the council for consideration of this resolution, and know that our organizations are in full support,” Thevik said. He thanked the city for “playing an important role in standing up for coastal resources, economies, and coastal jobs” in its earlier opposition to the crude oil shipping proposals.

“All of our marine-resource dependent jobs — from tourism to shellfish aquaculture, to recreational and commercial fishing — are dependant on a healthy marine environment,” Thevik added. “Offshore oil drilling projects offer us little gain with maximum risks.”

No one spoke against the resolution, and Council member Bob Crumpacker summed up the council’s overall position: “I firmly support this resolution.”

He noted that in the 1960s, Union Oil drilled seven test wells in the North Beach area, including one that is now the parking lot of the IGA in Ocean Shores.

“They still own those rights to this day,” Crumpacker noted, also calling for the city to inspect the existing well caps and to oppose any future development of those testing wells.