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Lawmakers Want Washington Exempt from Trump's Offshore Drilling Plan

Attorney general Bob Ferguson threatened to sue if the federal government didn't rule out drilling in Washington.

By Hayat Norimine February 5, 2018

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Puget Sound at sunset in October 2014. 

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke's announcement last month that the federal government would open up coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling has left state lawmakers scrambling to protect Washington from the administration's plans. 

Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson on Monday sent a letter to Zinke requesting that President Donald Trump rule out Washington's coasts from expanded access to offshore drilling. And Ferguson threatened to sue if the federal government didn't abide by that request. 

Trump last month said he would exempt Florida from those plans after Republican governor Rick Scott adamantly opposed the policy, which would expand energy companies' access to lease sales on coastal lands. (Whether the companies would be interested in that land is another question; here's a Q&A by KUOW.) 

In his letter, Ferguson wrote that dropping Florida from the plan, and not Washington, without established criteria would violate processes "states rely on for fair and lawful treatment." He said the coasts are also critical to the four coastal tribes that have treaties with the U.S.

Oil and gas exploration would "put at risk the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Washingtonians" who work in the fishing or tourism industries, Ferguson said. 

U.S. senator Patty Murray last month also prompted a social media campaign for Washingtonians to tweet out photos of the Pacific coast to show what's at stake. The results:  

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