By Paul Rogers
In a move aimed at stopping President Trump's plans to expand offshore oil drilling along the California coast, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed two laws that prohibit construction of new pipelines that could bring the oil and gas to shore.
"Today, California's message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now," Brown said. "We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast."
Brown signed SB 834 and AB 1775, two measures that ban the State Lands Commission from approving permits for new wharfs, piers, pipelines and other facilities anywhere in state waters along the entire California coast from the shoreline out to three miles offshore that could be used to expand new offshore oil and gas production.
The bills -- which were modeled on a local law passed by Santa Cruz city voters in 1985 aimed at stopping oil drilling during the Reagan administration -- were a top priority for environmentalists in Sacramento this year. A similar proposal was blocked last year by oil industry opposition.
But the effort gained new momentum, largely because Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other Trump officials announced in January that they would seek to open 90 percent of the offshore areas in the United States that are not already in national marine sanctuaries to new oil and gas drilling. That could happen as soon as 2020 in Southern California and 2021 in Northern California waters, overruling moratoriums that the Obama administration had imposed.
"We are extremely pleased," said Kim Delfino, California program director of Defenders of Wildlife, on Saturday. "The bills are intended to make it difficult to bring any new oil to shore, so it makes any new offshore oil drilling unlikely. They put up a pretty significant obstacle. They don't make it economically feasible for an oil company to do new drilling."
California is the nation's third-largest oil-producing state, behind Texas and North Dakota. Most of its oil is produced from inland wells in Kern County and other Southern California areas. New offshore drilling in state waters out to three miles offshore was banned in 1994 by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican.
But there are still 32 offshore platforms and artificial islands where oil is produced, all located in federal and state waters off the coasts of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties. Many date back to the 1950s, and no new ones have been constructed in more than 30 years. The new laws Brown signed Saturday do not affect that existing drilling.
Local officials and environmental groups were concerned that Trump's plans could bring new pressures to drill off the Sonoma and Mendocino areas, along with La Jolla and Malibu.
The oil industry opposed the bills Brown signed, which were authored by two Democrats, State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and Al Muratsuchi of Torrance.
"Bans are not the answer," Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, a leading industry trade group, said late last month.
She said the oil that Californians consume when they drive their cars has to come from somewhere.
"Demand for fuel is not decreasing," Reheis-Boyd said. "Every barrel of oil not produced in California will be replaced by a barrel produced and shipped in from a region that doesn't have our state's stringent environmental laws."
But Californians have increasingly turned against new drilling.
A poll in January by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California found 69 percent of Californians oppose new offshore oil drilling, while 25 percent support it.
(c)2018 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)