California Forum

We don’t need Trump’s offshore oil and gas drilling. Californians, speak out

A 2015 photo shows a line of offshore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel.
A 2015 photo shows a line of offshore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel. TNS

The Trump administration recently announced a plan to open California’s coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling. This decision threatens hundreds of coastal communities and could have a devastating impact on our state’s environment and economy.

California residents have reason to be worried. Offshore drilling would leave our beaches dangerously vulnerable to oil spills and ensure a future that’s more dependent on fossil fuels.

The Trump administration’s plan to allow offshore drilling off California’s beaches has the potential to do irreparable environmental damage while taking our energy economy in the wrong direction. We urge Californians to speak out against it.

Many Californians are familiar with the sight of offshore drilling rigs dotting the horizon, and aware of the damage they can do. Residents still talk about the oil spill in 1969, where heartbreaking photos of wildlife covered in oil appeared nationwide on the nightly news.

The severity of the oil spill helped move President Richard Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency. But despite months of cleanup, Santa Barbara’s economy and environment took years to recover.

More recently, in 2010, a deep water oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a catastrophic failure, killing 11 people and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf. The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the largest marine oil spill in history, and to this day Gulf Coast states have not fully recovered.

Home values decreased, the fishing and tourism industries suffered, and oil can still be found on the beaches. The EPA estimated that the spill caused up to $8.8 billion dollars in damage to natural resources alone.

History doesn’t lie. Californians know all too well the dangers of offshore drilling, and Deepwater Horizon and other disasters remind us that it’s never a question of if offshore drilling will cause a spill, but when. Why should we expose our coasts to these risks?

Offshore oil and gas drilling would put our tourism and coastal communities directly in harm’s way. People travel from around the world to enjoy California’s national parks and public lands.

In 2016, California’s tourism industry added $126 billion in spending to local economies and supported 1.1 million jobs. Nearly every Californian knows the joy of camping, hiking, or fishing in one of our parks. The natural beauty that we have in our own backyards is unmatched, and we have a responsibility to protect our shared spaces.

The good news about offshore drilling in California? We don’t need it. If we make the right decisions today, we can have the clean beaches, clean air, and growing economy we deserve.

Investing in clean energy, instead of dirty fossil fuels, solves both our growing energy needs and protects the environment. Wind and solar energy are revolutionizing our energy grids and helping California become a leader in green technology. Renewable energy already provides clean, reliable power to millions of residents.

What’s more, new businesses now specialize in making homes and workplaces more efficient, which saves everyone money and reduces our energy consumption even further. Best of all, these industries are creating millions of good-paying jobs and helping to protect the planet for our children and grandchildren.

No one should ever have to worry about whether their water is clean or the air is safe to breathe. The Trump administration’s plan to allow offshore drilling off California’s beaches has the potential to do irreparable environmental damage while taking our energy economy in the wrong direction. We urge Californians to speak out against this plan and help us protect our beautiful coastline and our climate.

U.S. Rep. Ami Bera represents California’s 7th Congressional District, ami.bera@mail.house.gov. Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club, michael.brune@sierraclub.org.

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