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Oregon lawmakers extend moratorium on offshore drilling

Legislation halts oil and gas development for 10 more years, but it stops short of a permanent ban.

February 19, 2010|By Kim Murphy

Reporting from Seattle — A 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development along the Oregon coast won final passage in the Legislature on Thursday, though lawmakers stopped short of adopting a permanent ban.

The bill extends a previous moratorium that had expired Jan. 2 for the three-mile-wide stretch of state coastal waters.

There are few known oil resources offshore and no big push for exploration, but environmental, fishing and tourism groups pressed to extend the ban, fearful that the federal government could move to open waters farther offshore to drilling.

"We think we've helped solidify the Oregon delegation into keeping the federal moratorium in place," said Brock Howell, legislative advocate for Environment Oregon.

The state Senate's 22-8 approval endorsed a version of the bill passed in the House last week.

Democratic Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski has said he supports the legislation.

Opponents of the bill said technology might one day make it possible to find and safely drill for hidden reserves. "How can you create jobs without using natural resources in our rural communities?" said Republican state Rep. Wayne Krieger.

The Western States Petroleum Assn. opposed the bill while reaffirming that there was no current interest in drilling off Oregon.

"Our view is a long-term ban is just not sensible energy policy," spokesman Tupper Hull said. "We do ourselves no favors by putting potentially valuable energy resources off-limits in an era when there seems to be consensus that we ought to improve our energy security."

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