Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(Washington, D.C.) - Today Senator Murray spoke in favor of an amendment to prevent oil and gas exploration off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The amendment, offered by Senator Bob Graham of Florida, would "strike the provision [from the pending Energy Bill] requiring the Secretary of the Interior to conduct an inventory and analysis of oil and natural gas resources beneath all of the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf."

Murray voted in favor of the amendment, however, it failed 44-54.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

"Mr. President, I rise to support this amendment. It will prevent exploration in off-shore areas that are currently protected under law.

The truth is we shouldn’t need a special amendment to protect sensitive off-shore areas that are currently off-limits to energy drilling and exploration. But today, we find that this amendment is needed because the underlying energy bill would essentially roll back a long-standing ban on exploration that protects our coastal areas.

This energy bill calls for the Department of Interior to inventory oil and gas resources. It does not rule out exploration or drilling in any part of the Outer Continental Shelf, and it does not prevent exploration or drilling in areas that are currently protected.

Mr. President, some may say that they just want to allow an “inventory” of oil and gas off our coasts. But taking an inventory of what lies beneath the sea-floor is not like taking an inventory of what’s in your kitchen pantry. Looking for oil and gas off our coasts is an invasive process that carries risks, that harms marine life, and that can create serious environmental damage.

If it was just “taking an inventory,” it would be one set of environmental concerns. But we all know what’s really going on here, and it’s much more than an inventory. This isn’t just about seeing what’s out there. It’s really about preparing to drill for oil and gas in areas that have been protected by law for decades.

Oil companies aren’t going to spend millions of dollars to inventory our coasts just for the fun of it. They want to begin drilling in areas that are protected, and this energy bill will give them a start.

I’m reminded of that analogy about how if you let a camel get its nose under a tent, pretty soon the whole camel will follow. If you don’t want the camel in your tent, stop it when it tries to poke its nose in.

Once these oil companies get their equipment down there, they’ll be just steps away from setting up oil rigs and creating a host of dangers on our shores. If we don’t want oil companies drilling off our shores, then we can’t let them get started with these so-called inventory projects.

M. President, there are good reasons why over the years Congress and past Presidents have agreed to protect parts of our Outer Continental Shelf. In fact, the moratorium that today protects the coast of my state of Washington was passed by Congress in 1990 and protected by an executive order by the first President Bush. Today, the current Bush Administration wants to repeal that protection and pave the way for drilling of our coasts.

Those who want to explore for energy off our coasts would like us to believe that it’s harmless, but it’s not. When we consider offshore oil and gas development, we’ve got to be concerned about oil spills and the release of other toxic materials. And there are other environmental effects that pose dangers to marine mammal populations, fish populations, and air quality. Seismic testing techniques used by the offshore oil and gas industry can kill marine mammals. This is not harmless.

Now if this Administration had a better record on the environment, I might be inclined to give them more leeway. But the Bush Administration has shown an eagerness to roll back environmental protections on so many issues, that they don’t have much credibility when they say they just want to look for oil off our coasts.

Just last month, the Bush Administration took another disturbing step to undermine our environmental protection related to oil and gas drilling. On May 26, 2003, the New York Times reported that the administration has proposed to defer for two years requirements for permits under the Clean Water Act for certain activities of oil and gas producers to prevent contaminated run-off.

Mr. President, this is a bad precedent, and a step in the wrong direction for protecting our environment. There is no good reason for oil and gas developers to be exempt from requirements that are imposed on other developers to prevent contaminated runoff.

So not only do they want to let the big oil and gas companies start looking for oil in areas that have been protected for decades, the Bush Administration is going to free those oil and gas companies from the rules that everyone else has to follow to prevent contaminated runoff. Mr. President, not on my watch.

We know there is a better way. Congress should be seeking long-term solutions that make sense for energy development and that balance environmental protection and economic growth. The proposal to drill in areas of the OCS that are currently under moratoria falls far short of the balanced approach we need.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to stop an attack on decades of protection for our sensitive coastal areas."