NEW YORK (Reuters) - Washington state is preparing to reject land leases and easements to stymie the Trump administration’s plan to allow oil drilling off its shores, an official of the Pacific northwest state said on Thursday.
State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, in a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Thursday, said the permitting of pipelines or other oil and gas infrastructure on state-managed land must prove to be in the “best interest of the state.”
“Given the danger offshore drilling poses to our environment and economy, I do not foresee how any proposal to use our aquatic lands to service offshore wells is in the best interest of Washington,” Franz wrote.
Franz told Reuters in a telephone interview she wants the letter to send a clear warning to the federal government, which in January proposed opening federal waters off the coasts of nearly every state to leasing for oil and gas extraction.
“We didn’t invite you here, and we don’t want you here,” she said.
In response to the letter, the Interior Department said it was still developing the five-year program and a final draft would be available for public comment and review by coastal governors and U.S. Congress before completion.
Washington and California, whose officials sent their own letter to Zinke last week promising to deny crude transportation permits, are among the first states to say publicly they will wield their permitting powers to block the expansion.
Together, the states create a barrier to a plan that spans about two-thirds of the mainland U.S. west coast.
Franz’s office will also use its authority over ports and shipping terminals to hinder crude from being carried ashore by floating storage or offloading ships, which are a rarer and more expensive way to transport oil than pipelines, Franz told Reuters.
The purpose of the letter, she said, is to discourage offshore oil and gas exploration near Washington before it starts.
“The more they have that information up front, the more we prevent them from wasting their time and energy,” Franz said.
Governors of nearly every coastal state, citing environmental and economic risks posed by drilling and transporting oil near their shorelines, have pushed back against the expansion to varying degrees.
Most have asked Zinke in letters, in personal meetings and on social media to be exempted from the plan entirely. So far, at the request of Republican Governor Rick Scott, only Florida has been awarded an exemption.
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Bases and Steve Orlofsky