Capitol Alert

California just took a step to block Trump’s efforts on offshore oil drilling

Offshore oil drilling is shaping up as the next big fight in the California vs. Trump war.

In response to President Donald Trump’s latest executive order aimed at expanding offshore oil drilling in federal waters and opening up other areas to new oil and gas exploration, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is proposing new legislation to block Trump’s efforts.

Jackson, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, said she’ll unveil legislation next week to prevent new leases in state waters for construction of new pipelines or other infrastructure needed for expansion of oil and gas development.

“Why should we go back to the dirty, dangerous and destructive policies of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s?” Jackson asked in a media call Friday. “President Trump and his oil industry cronies may want to drill, but we’re going to stop that oil and gas development from being feasible by preventing it from being shipped or pipelined ashore – from being transported processed and utilized.”

Trump, in signing the order, said he wants to increase domestic energy production and spur job growth.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. “It reverses the (Obama) administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

The order lifts the ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean and along the coast of the Atlantic. It marks the beginning of potential oil exploration in new marine sanctuaries, including some off the California and Florida coasts. It could also lead to new oil leasing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, open up waters currently closed, including those off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and a wide swath from New Jersey to the Canadian border.

In comments to reporters Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that the administration recognizes that residents of some states, including California, do not want offshore oil drilling. Nonetheless, Trump’s order on Friday requires the Interior Department to review the oil and gas potential of marine sanctuaries former President Barack Obama created and expanded.

Jackson and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Trump’s executive order, which seeks to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and in the federal waters off the shore of coastal California, represents an assault on California’s multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing economy and poses a massive threat to the ocean’s ecosystem.

“California’s iconic coastal and marine waters are one of our state’s most precious resources, and as elected officials, it is our duty to ensure the long-term viability of California’s fish and wildlife resources, and thriving fishing, tourism and recreation sectors,” de León said. “So it is stunning for us to learn this morning that the new administration ... is considering opening up California water to new oil drilling ... we will oppose those efforts.”

California has not authorized an offshore oil or gas lease since 1969, when a massive oil spill devastated Santa Barbara’s coastline and marine habitat. It remains California’s largest oil spill and ranks third in the U.S., behind the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill off the Gulf Coast and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

California only controls waters 3 miles from the shoreline, where federal waters begin. Still, Jackson said her bill, set to be unveiled next week, could stymie new oil and gas development off the state’s coast.

“Sadly, we have no jurisdiction outside the 3-mile limit. But if they start drilling for oil and gas, they have to transport it somewhere,” she said. “We will prohibit the State Lands Commission from allowing them to transport that oil and gas, or make it so expensive that it simply doesn’t pencil out.”

Jackson and de León were among a chorus of other state officials who said California would not permit expansion of oil and gas development.

Gov. Jerry Brown, together with the governors of Oregon and Washington state, called Trump’s executive order “short-sighted” in a statement Friday.

“For good reason, there has been no federal expansion of oil and gas drilling along our shared coastline for more than 30 years,” they said. “We still remember what happened in Santa Barbara in 1969, Port Angeles in 1985, Grays Harbor in 1988 and Coos Bay in 1999. We remember the oil soaked beaches and wildlife and the devastating economic impacts to local communities and the fishing industry.

“Now is not the time to turn back the clock. We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of Big Oil above our communities and treasured coastline.”

The Western States Petroleum Association, which spent more than any other group last year lobbying state lawmakers – with $18.7 million in total spending – avoided a strong position on Trump’s order or Jackson’s planned legislation.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, chairman of the State Lands Commission, said California would not allow new oil drilling or gas exploration.

“California’s door is closed to President Trump’s Pacific oil and gas drilling,” Newsom said in a statement. “The State Lands Commission, which manages or has oversight of all submerged lands along California’s entire coastline, is unequivocally resolved to create an environmental rampart along California’s coast.”

Stuart Leavenworth of the McClatchy Washington, D.C., Bureau contributed to this report.

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