Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Apr 26 2019

Federal government had planned to open Washington’s coast to oil & gas drilling

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement today after the Trump Administration announced that it is putting on indefinite hold its plan to open more than 90 percent of all federal waters to offshore drilling, including off the coast of Washington state.

Ferguson had threatened to sue if the Administration moved forward with the proposal.

“The Trump Administration recognized that if it went forward with its unlawful and dangerous plan to drill for oil and gas off of our coast, it would lose in federal court — again,” Ferguson said. “We warned President Trump and Secretary Zinke that we would take legal action if they threatened our coast with oil drilling. They backed off, but this Administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted. I will continue to keep watch until the Trump Administration abandons this plan entirely. This proposal is a needless threat to our economy and our untamed, awe-inspiring Washington coastline. Our beaches and coastal forests are an integral part of Washington’s identity, and they should remain that way for generations to come.”


The Trump Administration announced a draft plan to sell offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic in January of 2018 in areas covering about 90 percent of the outer continental shelf. Several days later, the Administration’s then-Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, granted Florida an exemption from the offshore lease sales.

The following month, Ferguson sent a letter to Zinke opposing the proposal, and requesting an exemption for the State of Washington similar to Florida.

“Every reason identified by the Secretary in announcing his decision also applies to Washington,” Ferguson wrote. “Were the Department to grant one state an exemption without an identified process and established criteria, it would contravene the regulatory framework and processes that states rely on for fair and lawful treatment.”

Ferguson, a fourth-generation Washingtonian, spent a week in 1998 hiking from the Hoh River north to Shi Shi Beach. In his letter to Zinke, Ferguson called it one of the most memorable experiences of his life.

He invited Zinke to join him on a visit to Washington’s coastline, and warned the secretary that if the Trump Administration moved forward with its proposal to put Washington’s coastal communities at risk, Ferguson planned to initiate litigation against the Administration to protect Washington’s coast.

Washingtonians took an estimated 4.1 million trips to Washington’s coast in 2014, generating $481 million for Washington’s economy. Commercial fishing and seafood processing added another $117 million that year. Washington’s coast is also vital to coastal communities and tribes, and home to diverse and unique ecosystems.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov