California Forum

These two bills are crucial to protect California’s coast from offshore drilling

Offshore oil drilling platforms sit along the California coastline off Huntington Beach in January.
Offshore oil drilling platforms sit along the California coastline off Huntington Beach in January. Los Angeles Times/TNS

Oil companies are working hard to make sure that President Donald Trump’s plan to open up the California coast to new offshore drilling becomes reality. Legislators now have the opportunity to stand up to Big Oil to protect our fisheries, oceans and $44.8 billion ocean economy.

Two bills – Senate Bill 834 and Assembly Bill 1775 – are crucial to fending off the Trump’s administration’s plans to offer six offshore leases as soon as 2020.


AB 1775 would prohibit the state from permitting any new infrastructure needed to support new offshore drilling. SB 834 provides an additional level of protection by banning any modifications to old infrastructure leases that would allow for expanded offshore drilling.

The oil and gas industry is poised to expand drilling by buying new leases and piggybacking on existing infrastructure to drill horizontally into new areas. We need protections from both.

The vast majority of Californians do not want new offshore drilling, opposition that dates to the devastating Santa Barbara spill in 1969, which fishing communities, businesses and families still remember today. Trump’s oil and gas offshore leasing proposal is the most radical expansion of federal offshore drilling in U.S. history and the first attempt to issue new oil and gas leases in federal waters off California since 1984.


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We need our leaders to make good on promises to fight Trump’s attack on one of our state’s greatest economic engines. California’s commercial fisheries are some of the best managed in the world, and contribute billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the coastal economy. Our stunning coastline supports more than 400,000 tourism and recreation jobs annually. People visit from around the world to eat our famous salmon and crab, watch whales and walk or surf our beaches. Each of these crown jewels would be tarnished by the seismic exploration and oil spills that are guaranteed to come with drilling.

In addition, enabling oil companies to drill off our coast directly contradicts our effort to shift the state from fossil fuels to renewable energy. However, the permitting of new oil wells in state waters (within three miles of the coast) has increased by more than 15 percent in the past six years, all on Gov. Jerry Brown’s watch. Signing loophole-free bills to stop offshore drilling will go a long way towards repairing the legacy Brown says he’d like to leave for our oceans and our fisheries.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is uniquely positioned to lead on this issue and to keep his promise that “not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California.”

New York and New Jersey have already passed laws to prevent drilling in federal waters off their coasts. Delaware and Maryland are considering their own. Where’s our California leadership on this?

Noah Oppenheim is executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. He can be contacted at