ENVIRONMENT
09/10/2018 06:39 am ET

California Gov. Signs Laws To Thwart Trump's Offshore Drilling Scheme

New state laws would block gas and oil from reaching shore for distribution.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed legislation aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s plan to open offshore waters to new oil and gas drilling.

“California’s message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now,” said Brown as he signed the legislation Saturday. “We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast.”

No new federal leases have been granted for oil and gas drilling off California’s coast since 1984.

The new state laws, Senate Bill 834 and Assembly Bill 1775, aim to block offshore drilling by prohibiting any new leases for construction — such as docks or bays — needed to load oil and gas pumped from ocean platforms onto California’s shores. The state controls the coastline as well as ocean waters within three miles of shore. The legislation would also block systems to transport gas or oil, such as pipelines. 

Though the federal government could still allow drilling in federal waters,  California could effectively block the oil and gas from getting to its coast for transportation to buyers.

The legislation also requires public notice and a more demanding process for any extensions or renewals of existing construction leases linked to offshore gas and oil.

In 2015, the state had its worst oil spill in 25 years when a ruptured oil pipeline spilled over 140,000 gallons of crude into the ocean near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. Texas-based Plains All-American Pipeline on Friday was convicted in Santa Barbara of nine criminal charges related to the spill, including a felony for failing to properly maintain the pipeline.

Brown also submitted the state’s formal opposition to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to open public land for oil and gas development.  

“The Bureau’s proposal to open up new areas of the state to oil and gas production ... is contrary to the course California has set to combat climate change and to meet its share of the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement,” the governor wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Zinke announced in January that he planned to open nearly 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf to new offshore oil and gas drilling operations.

By February, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had proposed six sales of drilling rights off the California coast, and another off Oregon and Washington, between 2020 and 2023. 

The California State Lands Commission, which controls the state’s entire coastline, quickly fired off a letter warning the federal government that it would not issue any new pipeline permits, or allow existing pipelines to be used for new offshore operations. 

The Trump administration is also eyeing the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico for new drilling leases. 

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who’s now a lobbyist for the oil industry, said at a recent conference where he tried to drum up support for offshore leases that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill wasn’t so bad for Florida and that “tar balls are naturally occurring.” The deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform caused the largest marine oil spill in history.

Zinke quickly granted Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott an exemption from the Trump administration offshore oil drilling scheme because Scott, who had previously supported expansion of offshore drilling, said he wanted to protect the state’s natural resources.

 
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