Calif. Legislators Jackson, Muratsuchi Reintroduce Bill to Halt New Federal Offshore Oil Drilling


By Dan Bacher | January 8, 2018 | 

In response to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement on January 4 to open federal waters along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to new federal offshore oil and gas drilling, two California legislators are reintroducing legislation to protect the state from new federal offshore oil drilling.

The spending of millions of dollars by the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron and other oil companies to stop the bill resulted in the legislation being stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last year. The oil industry spent more on lobbying in California, $16,360,618, in just the first six months of 2017 than was spent by the industry in all of 2016, $16.0 million, according to a report compiled and written by William Barrett of the Lung Association in California.  

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) are reintroducing the legislation to ensure that pipelines and other infrastructure cannot be built in California waters to support any new federal oil development. 

“In the Senate, Jackson will carry Senate Bill 834, also jointly authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). Muratsuchi will carry an identical companion measure, Assembly Bill 1775, in the State Assembly, which will also be jointly authored by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara),” according to a news release from Senator Jackson’s Office.

The legislation prohibits 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. SB 844 would also prohibit any lease renewal, extension or modification that would support the production, transportation or processing of new oil and gas, according to Jackson’s Office.

“California’s economy thrives because of our environmental protections,” said Jackson. “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Administration’s reckless decision to open these waters to further oil development represents a step backward into the outdated, dirty and destructive energy policies of the past.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.”

“We need to protect our beautiful coast of the South Bay and throughout California. This bill would help protect the health of the residents who live and work near the coast as well as the marine environment.  It will also prevent any future oil spills,” said Muratsuchi.

Senator Jackson noted that California has had a “long-standing bipartisan commitment to protecting its coast from new offshore oil and gas drilling.” In 1994, the Legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act that prohibited new oil and gas leases in the state’s coastal waters, with some exceptions. 

Unfortunately, in spite of mostly fawning media coverage portraying Governor Jerry Brown as a climate leader, Brown’s oil and gas regulators in fact approved permits for 238 new offshore wells between 2012 and 2016 in existing leases within three nautical miles of shore. 

On January 4, Brown issued a statement blasting Trump, pledging "resistance" to Trump's plan to expand offshore oil drilling.

"Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He's wrong on the facts. America's economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He's wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle," Brown proclaimed.

Brown, who frequently speaks at climate conferences across the globe, promotes the expansion of fracking and other oil drilling both offshore and onshore, Big Oil-supported cap-and-trade policies, the irrigation of crops with oil wastewater, the exemption of Big Oil from the Safe Drinking Water Act in Kern County oilfields and the environmentally destructive Delta Tunnels project.  

In late 2016, Brown asked former President Barack Obama to permanently ban any new oil and gas leasing in federal waters off of California’s coast to match California’s long-standing ban on new drilling in state waters. However, the Brown administration has in reality continued to expand oil drilling operations in state waters under the existing leases. 

Consumer and environmental advocates urged Brown to demonstrate real environmental leadership and ban all offshore drilling, stop new oil and gas drilling on shore, and ban fracking completely.

“It is time for Governor Brown to draw a bright green line between California and the Trump Administration by keeping oil in the ground, which is the only way to avoid the worst effects of global warming,” said Liza Tucker, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “We urge the Governor to demonstrate his leadership by making his actions match his rhetoric on the need to stop burning fossil fuels to avoid an existential threat.”

“Brown’s record on oil drilling offshore and on shore is one of expansion. That is no longer acceptable. Brown should ban all drilling activity offshore, cut off any planned new oil and gas drilling on shore, and ban fracking outright," Tucker explained.

According to Department of Conservation data provided last year, offshore oil production continues in existing state leases up to three nautical miles offshore in 1,366 active wells.

"New drilling permits were issued for 238 wells since 2012, up 17 percent, for existing leases in waters off of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, according to analysis by the nonprofit FracTracker Alliance. Roughly 171 of them were active as of a year ago," noted Tucker.   

Tucker also said the number of  active onshore oil and gas wells has jumped 23 percent from 53,825 in 2009, the year before Brown was elected Governor, to 66,516 onshore wells at the end of 2016, according to Department of Conservation data. The number of wells drilled and completed in 2014 jumped by 67 percent over 2011 to 6,896 from 4,636 on Brown’s watch. 

The FracTacker Alliance report is available here: https://www.fractracker.org/2017/02/more-offshore-drilling-ca/

The oil industry welcomed Brown's expansion of offshore drilling in state waters - and was equally pleased with the Trump administration plan to expand offshore drilling in federal waters.

“Our members produce energy in the most environmentally safe and sound way under the most stringent regulatory environment in the world,” claimed Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, in a statement. “This announcement could help California increase our domestic energy production.”

Reheis-Boyd also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. It is no surprise that the “marine protected areas” that she and other task force members oversaw the creation of fail to protect the ocean from offshore oil drilling, fracking, water pollution, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Proponents of Senate Bill 834 and Assembly Bill 1775 can expect to face stiff opposition from the oil industry. Big Oil is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento and the Western States Petroleum Association is the single largest and most powerful corporate lobbying lobbying organization. 

Every bill except one opposed by the oil industry failed to make it out of the Legislature over the past three years. Over the past ten years, oil lobbying in California has topped $150 million. To read the full report, go to: http://www.lung.org/.. 

The California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million on lobbying over the two-year period. Big Oil spending last session amounted to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day.

In addition, Jerry Brown has received over $9.8 million from oil companies, gas companies and utilities since he ran for his third term as governor, according to Consumer Watchdog. For more information on Governor Brown and his so-called "green" policies, see: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2017-09/how_green_is_brown.pdf






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