The California State Lands Commission has warned the Trump administration that it will fight its plan to open up the Pacific coast to new oil and gas drilling operations.
The commission, which controls the entire California coast, voted unanimously Wednesday to issue a letter stating its staunch opposition to the operations and notifying the federal government that it will not issue the pipeline permits drillers would need to bring oil and gas from new offshore platforms to land. It said it would also not allow existing pipelines to be used for new operations.
“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,” reads the commission’s letter to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “Californians are vigorous advocates for their coast, and the prospect of new drilling in coastal waters provokes fierce opposition and sparks outrage.”
“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 says.
The state legislature is also currently considering a bill that would block new pipeline permits.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who chairs the lands commission, said the state will use “every tool available” to block President Donald Trump’s “cynical, regressive agenda.”
“I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California, where our leadership in reducing emissions and curbing pollution has enabled exceptional economic growth,” he said in a statement.
The commission hasn’t allowed new offshore drilling since 1969, after there was a massive oil spill near Santa Barbara.
The California Coastal Commission, which also reviews coastal use, sent its own letter to the BOEM on Wednesday, in which it called on the federal government to remove California from the list of states it intends to open up to new drilling operations.
“We’ve fought similar efforts before, and we will fight them again,” said Dayna Bochco, chair of the Coastal Commission. “Nothing galvanizes bipartisan resistance in California like the threat of more offshore oil drilling.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said last month that he plans to open nearly 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf to new offshore oil and gas drilling operations.
The BOEM has already proposed six sales of drilling rights off the California coast, and another off Oregon and Washington, between 2020 and 2023.
Officials from a number of coastal states have expressed concern about Zinke’s proposal. Zinke said early last month that he was “removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms” because Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) had argued that coastal tourism was crucial for the state’s economy. (Another Interior official, however, has said Florida could still be up for grabs). Scott is a staunch supporter of Trump.
“California merits the same consideration as Secretary Zinke announced for Florida – removal from the program,” Bochco wrote in the Coastal Commission’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.”
Protesters gathered Thursday in Sacramento to show their opposition to the administration’s drilling proposal before the BOEM held a hearing for public comments on it.
California’s strategy of not issuing pipeline permits could serve as a blueprint for other states preparing to confront the administration, as the president’s party typically touts states’ rights.
The California Coastal Commission could also employ the 1969 federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The law gives states the power to review offshore federal and industrial activity that could affect the environment.
Drillers could avoid using pipelines to get their product to shore — by shipping, for example — but it would likely be prohibitively expensive. A similar battle 30 years ago convinced Chevron to scuttle plans to move oil from its Point Arguello fields off Santa Barbara.