What Impact Will Obama's Energy Proposal Have On California?

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In the wake of President Obama's new energy proposal, initial reports of its impact on California, particularly on proposed drilling off of Santa Barbara, are not entirely clear. In fact, the LA Times published two seemingly contradictory stories on the matter within hours of one another.

According to the Times' PolitiCal blog, the new plan would exempt the Santa Barbara coast from any future drilling:

"Activists in Southern California breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday at news of the Obama administration's offshore drilling plan.

While environmentalists elsewhere lamented the opening of new areas to drilling and the petroleum industry bemoaned not opening more, Santa Barbara saw a return to status quo ante.

The new federal plan rescinds a previous leasing program that had included areas off Santa Barbara, including the Santa Maria Basin and the entire Santa Barbara Channel, according to the Environmental Defense Center. By rescinding the Bush plan and enacting his own, Obama left in place a moratorium on further federal leasing enacted in 1990 and extended by the Clinton Administration."

But it would appear that the Governor did not get this memo, as a few hours later the Times Greenspace blog reported that drilling is to resume off of Santa Barbara per Schwarzenegger's plan:

"A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said new oil drilling restrictions laid out by the Obama administration would not affect the governor's plan to resume limited oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara County.

The Contra Costa Times sheds some light on the matter, but the future of offshore drilling in Southern California remains uncertain:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has opposed new leases in federal waters, but this year proposed allowing two new drilling leases in state waters off the Santa Barbara coast -- California's first in more than 40 years -- to help fund the state's park system. The governor is hoping the deal would bring $1.8 billion to the state over the next 14 years. A Texas company, PXP, would tap the site, known as Tranquillon Ridge, from a platform already in federally controlled waters.

A 1994 state law has generally banned new oil leases in state waters, but Tranquillon Ridge is an exception because it is already being partially drained of oil and gas by a nearby federal well.

For the first time last year, a majority of Californians said they supported new drilling, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Still, the Legislature or the State Lands Commission would need to approve a deal like the Tranquillon Ridge arrangement, and both rejected a similar proposal last year.