The gloves are already off. California is in the ring and preparing its KO. But this could be a wake-up call if California doesn’t heed the warnings of attorney Sandra Fluke, well-known for her testimony on birth control before Congress, and now the California State Director for Voices For Progress and the Voices For Progress Education Fund.
By Kriss Perras
“As State Director of Voices For Progress, we’re supporting Assembly Bill 1775 (AB1775) and Senate Bill 834 (SB834), which are identical measures to try to do everything within the state’s power to prevent additional federal offshore drilling off the coast of California,” said Fluke.
“These are bills by Assemblymembers Muratsuchi and Limón and Senators Jackson and Lara.”
Fluke told a cautionary tale about how even in this state that leads the world on climate change, not every bill that needs to be passed in our legislature on environmental topics gets the support it should.
“These bills I’m working on in Sacramento, Senator Jackson proposed a similar measure last year. It was not able to be passed,” said Fluke. “Sometimes as Californians we have the assumption everyone in Sacramento, there are so many Democrats there, they’re all climate friendly, these things are automatically going to pass. In fact the oil and gas industry is very powerful in Sacramento. There are some other powerful interest that haven’t been supportive of these bills. That’s why the bills didn’t pass last year.”
“The oil and gas industry is very powerful in Sacramento. There are some other powerful interest that haven’t been supportive of these bills. That’s why the bills didn’t pass last year,” said Fluke.
Despite a recent survey indicating support in our state for more drilling off the California coast has dropped to a record low, special interests can still be the loudest voice in the room.
“In order to have different outcome this year, in order to make sure that we do everything we can to permanently prevent offshore drilling off of California, we need folks to be calling their assemblymembers and state senators and pushing for support for these bills I live very close to Malibu and share representation with Malibu. I feel pretty confident that State Senator Henry Stern and Assmeblymember Richard Bloom are going to be voting the right way on this. But if you have folks that live in other areas of California, it’s really important that they hear from their constituents about how important these two bills are.”
Californians have opposed actions the Trump Administration is trying to take since 1969. Opposition to offshore oil drilling is embedded in California culture. After the massive Santa Barbara oil spill, the subsequent institution of several landmark commissions and the EPA, between 1972 and 1978 six lawsuits were filed against Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease sales for offshore oil drilling. This put a hamper on any new efforts to drill for oil off our California coast.
In 1981, California got angry once more when Secretary James Watt reversed a prior decision against offshore leasing in central and northern California. Fast forward to the GHW Bush Administrations, a moratoria was instituted on Federal waters. In 1994, the California Legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibited new oil and gas leases in the state’s coastal waters, with some exceptions. The Clinton Administration extended that moratoria to 2012. Fast forward once more to the Obama Administration, and California was removed from the federal leasing program altogether.
SB834 and AB1775 are companion measures. These bills will prohibit the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases for pipelines, piers, wharves or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development in the three-mile area off the coast that is controlled by the state. It would also prohibit any lease renewal, extension or modification that would support the production, transportation or processing of new oil and gas.
“California’s economy thrives because of our environmental protections. The Trump Administration’s reckless decision to open these waters to further oil development represents a step backward into the outdated, dirty and destructive energy policies of the past. It’s more important than ever that we send a strong statement that California will not be open for drilling along our coast, which could devastate our multi-trillion dollar coastal economy, our coastal waters and marine life,” said Jackson.
If Trump’s plan moves forward, most US coastal waters would be open to offshore oil drilling. There are several related legal and marine issues the effect California and most coastal states, which has been protected since the Santa Barbara spill.
“These bills would help protect the health of the residents who live and work near the coast as well as the marine environment. They will also prevent any future oil spills,” said Assemblymember Muratsuchi.
Central and Northern California waters are pristine. When thinking about sea life, those water are particularly productive and nutrient rich. The California Current flows the length of the coast. This supports a food web and ecosystems unique to our coast.
Those beaches are a major driver of our coastal economies. Beach-going represents a major economic use of the California coast and ocean, according to the research team Linwood Pendleton and Judith Kildow. Concession stands, paid parking lots and waterfront restaurants reveal that beach-goers contribute to a thriving coastal market economy. Using a conservative estimate of 150 million beach visits, which California ranges between 150 million and 378 million, market expenditures by beach-goers in California could substantially exceed $3 billion each year, according to this research team. To put this figure in perspective, the total number of visits for all American national parks is estimated at 286 million.
“There are a lot of reasons why folks oppose offshore drilling, everything from concern about saline, birds and mammals along the coast, to the impact that its going to have on businesses that depend on tourism and outdoor recreational along the coast for their customer base,” said Fluke. “There is a whole list of reasons. For Voices For Progress and for me, the most paramount reason is we’re devoted to fighting climate change. And opening up additional areas for drilling for oil and natural gas are just the opposite direction from what we should be going in. And we need to be investing in renewables energy and clean energy sources, not trying to find more ways to tap into fossil fuels. That’s really going backwards instead of forwards.”
The legal challenges have already started. The infrastructure needed to get oil from point A to point B requires usage of state controlled waters. This means commissions like the Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission will be involved.
“There are already lawsuits in the works challenging some of the processes President Trump Secretary Zinke have used thus far, and and making sure they don’t violate Federal law in the processes they use going forward. That’s one prong of this fight,” said Fluke.
There are several dozen lawsuits filed by Attorney General Beccera thus far involving federal rules. He, like Congressman Ted Lieu, have called out the Trump Administration for exempting the state of Florida, and only Florida, from the offshore drilling plan citing its effect on local tourism and that local Florida officials told Trump to do so. Both Beccera and Lieu said if Florida is to be exempt due to offshore oil drilling’s effect on the local tourism economy, then California’s tourism economy is much larger than Florida’s, this state too should be exempt, since that is the legal standard being used.
California’s long-standing bipartisan commitment to protecting its coast from new offshore oil and gas drilling is coming back to bite Trump. California depends on its coastline for economic stimulus, recreation, tourism and other cherished values, like surfing, which is itself an economy.
According to NOAA, California is a vital contributor to the US economy. California is the sixth largest economy in the world. With a state GDP of $2.13 trillion in 2012, California represented 13 percent of the $16.1 trillion GDP in the United States (BEA, 2015) . California’s contribution to the US economy is primarily driven by three supersectors: financial activities; trade, transportation, and utilities; and public administration (NOEP, 2015). Although these state economy segments are measured and evaluated independently of one another, they share a key common characteristic: their concentration along the coastline. California’s 19 coastal counties, which represents the coastal economy, generated $662 billion in wages and $1.7 trillion in GDP in 2012, estimates a recent study. The five largest counties are shore adjacent and accounted for 61 percent of the state’s GDP. California’s ocean economy, a subset of the coastal economy, employs more than 489,000, which is more than a combined employment of residential building construction, telecommunications and electric power generation (BLS, 20015).
“Another prong in this fight is to have the state Lands Commission and Coastal Commission do everything they can to prevent offshore drilling,” said Fluke. “We also need to be engaging the federal government, submitting comments. There’s a great group of members of Congress who have stepped forward, and said they want to extend that comment period and give more people time to weigh in. Here in California the federal government gave us one hearing to express ourselves. They held it in Sacramento, which is very far from the coast, and on one end of such a large state. It was pretty clear they didn’t really want to hear what Californians had to say about this proposal.”
Protestors here are now calling for a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling. They are demanding a more progressive forward thinking energy policy.
“There are things that local governments can be doing to try and discourage these efforts, and speak out against them. Residents can be calling their city councils and county boards of supervisors. The reasons I and Voices For Progress are most focused on these state legislative bills, again AB1775 and SB834, is because of al the things I named, these are the only things that are really a permanent solution. Many of the other approaches are very valuable, but they are delays. Some of the other approaches depend on who is appointed to that commission at that time, whether or not they will really stand up to the oil and gas industry and to folks like President Trump. If we can get AB1775 and SB834 passed, these measure will specifically prohibit the state lands commission from providing new permits for additional oil and gas exploration no matter who is on that commission. And they will prevent pipelines for new offshore oil drilling from extending into state waters. That means even if its permissible to do drilling in federal waters, we’re going to make it really difficult and expensive to get that oil back to land. Hopefully that will keep folks from taking that action. I support all of these approaches. This is the one though that is a permanent legislative fix to the extent it is everything the state can possibly do.”
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