Capitol Alert

Drilling off coast would pose ‘catastrophic harm’ to state’s economy, California says

The one and only public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to allow new oil drilling in federal waters off California’s coast is set for today in Sacramento.

Yet California leaders say they’ll block any future plans to allow new offshore oil and gas leases, asserting in a letter from the State Lands Commission sent Wednesday to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that new ocean drilling would harm air quality, inhibit the state’s shift to clean energy and threaten future oil spills.

“The catastrophic harm from an offshore oil spill is well-established ... As a state, California has perhaps the highest risk from an oil spill and the most to lose,” wrote Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also the commission’s chairman, state Controller Betty Yee and Michael Cohen, the state’s finance director, in the letter. “Californians are vigorous advocates for their coast, and the prospect of new drilling in coastal waters provokes fierce opposition and sparks outrage.”

California hasn’t permitted a new oil or gas development lease since 1968, according to the commission. Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s public hearing or the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans, California is seeking to prevent new oil and gas leases by refusing to allow state permits needed for transport. The state, through the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, also bans new oil and gas leasing in state waters.

“Given how unpopular oil development in coastal waters is in California, it is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore,” the letter said.

The strong wording from the State Lands Commission comes amid widespread opposition to new offshore drilling, among Democrats and Republicans, across California.

Gov. Jerry Brown has condemned the proposal, as well as state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The state Legislature this week advanced a resolution opposing it, and the California Coastal Commission on Wednesday also sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Management urging the federal government to remove California from the list of proposed states the Trump administration has called out for offshore drilling expansion. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier agreed to remove Florida from the list, at the state’s request.

“California merits the same consideration as Secretary Zinke announced for Florida – removal from the program,” Coastal Commission Chairwoman Dayna Bochco wrote in the agency’s letter. “California’s economy is roughly three times that of Florida ... If offshore drilling poses a risk to Florida’s economy, the risk to California is three times greater.”

The Western States Petroleum Association suggested new offshore drilling in federal waters off California could benefit the state.

“Exploring potential resources in federal water is the first step in helping California increase our energy security through potentially increasing our domestic energy production,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the association’s president, in a statement. “Currently, we import over 1 million barrels of oil in super tankers from overseas locations each and every day.”

At present, there are 26 oil platforms off California’s coast – 23 in federal waters and three in state waters. There are five additional man-made islands for oil production in state waters.

Lawmakers and other opponents of expanding offshore drilling are holding a rally at the west steps of the Capitol beginning at 1:30 p.m., followed by a press conference at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, at 828 I St., beginning at 2:45 p.m.

The Bureau of Ocean Management hearing on the offshore drilling proposal is set from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. also at 828 I St.

WORTH REPEATING: “I have plenty more stories to tell.” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, after six hours of talking on the House floor about immigration and the plight of so-called “Dreamers.”

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STATE HOUSING CRISIS: Capitol Weekly hosts a daylong conference on solutions to California’s affordability crisis at 915 Capitol Mall, Sacramento. State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, is the keynote speaker. Others include Anya Lawler of the Western Center for Law and Poverty, Matt Regan of the Bay Area Council and Richard Lyon of the California Building Industry Association. The event, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., is also expected to be broadcast on CalChannel.

GOVERNOR’S RACE: The Service Employees International Union hosts a gubernatorial forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight in Los Angeles focusing on the state’s aging population and long-term care.

Confirmed participants are Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former schools chief Delaine Eastin. Organizers are set to stream the forum live on Facebook.

STATE OF SILICON VALLEY: Sen. Kamala Harris is set to deliver the keynote speech Friday at Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s “State of the Valley” conference in San Jose, addressing the region’s economy, community health and future challenges. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is also expected to attend.

CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who turns 49 on Friday, and to state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who turns 58 on Sunday.

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