Last Thursday, the Federal administration brought an offshore oil drilling dog and pony show to Sacramento, instead of hosting a listening session with live testimony from concerned citizens. On January 4, President Trump announced his intentions to open-up California’s beloved coastline to oil and gas exploration. The agency charged with collecting feedback and information before handing over the keys to the fossil fuel industry, said it would offer each coastal state just a single opportunity to provide input at a public meeting.
Sure enough, at the Sacramento meeting last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) required Californians, who expected a public hearing, to sit through a video, extolling the “virtues” of expanded offshore drilling. Citizens could file online comments after they watched the propaganda film.
In a brazen move that prioritizes oil interests over coastal communities, President Trump reinitiated the Five-Year Oil and Gas planning process in early January. To recap, this proposed program threatens to open-up nearly the entire United States coast to new oil and gas drilling. California, for the first time in 34 years, could see the rights to drill in its ocean sold off to oil companies. This is the most radical proposed program of any administration, ever. As my colleague, Alexandra Adams, has written, “States like Maine could see drilling for the first time. The Oregon and Washington coasts are now in the crosshairs. The fragile Arctic seas will be at perpetual risk for spills.”
Typically, when BOEM kicks off a Five-Year Oil and Gas leasing planning process, BOEM officials will meet with impacted communities and stakeholders in a series of meetings throughout the affected region. Not this time. BOEM held one “open house” in Sacramento, nearly a hundred miles away from a coastline and hundreds of miles from the areas that are most vulnerable to offshore drilling. Despite these hurdles, the open house was packed, with a line to get in. Californians care about their coastlines. Imagine the turnout if BOEM took a more responsible approach and held hearings in additional venues, especially along the coast.
Our oceans are public waters, beloved by Californians and Americans throughout the country. That is why many who weren’t able to travel to Sacramento last week attended one of several shadow protests the weekend before. My NRDC colleagues and our coalition partners, along with thousands of Californians, protested the Trump Administration’s plans to open-up our cherished U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling at six separate rallies in Southern California: Mission Beach, Laguna Beach, Ventura, Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz. There will be more opportunities to voice your concerns at other events throughout the U.S.—visit Protect All Our Coasts to learn more.
This disastrous move to include California in the Five-Year plan flies in the face of California’s history of bi-partisan opposition to expanded oil and gas drilling in the state. For decades now, Californians have rejected expanded offshore oil and gas development and insisted on propelling California toward a clean energy future. California’s renewable energy industries are thriving, while state GDP continues to grow, all while achieving a 36% drop in emissions between 1990 and 2014.
The benefits of California’s investments in renewable energy and marine protection far exceed any purported benefits of growing the state’s oil and gas industry. Contrary to the argument that increased oil and gas production will bring jobs to California, our state’s thriving tourism and recreation and renewable energy industries provide economic and social benefits that far surpass those the offshore oil and gas industry can offer.
California’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change—sea level rise, wildfires, drought, and ocean acidification—are already taking their toll on our communities and the state’s splendid natural beauty. We cannot allow the Trump administration to direct our state’s future.
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Secretary Ryan Zinke released the proposal which is the most extreme offshore drilling plan that any administration has proposed, designed to exploit every last U.S. coast for the benefit of the oil industry.