The recent Trump Administration announcement to open offshore leasing of oil fields in coastal waters off California does not make environmental or economic sense. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s statement talks about establishing “energy dominance” and “energy independence” for the United States, but fails to address the environmental and economic risks associated with this proposal.
California communities have been united in their commitment to protect the state’s coastal resources through enactment of the California Coastal Act; the establishment of the National Marine Sanctuaries in the Greater Farallones, Monterey Bay, and the Channel Islands; and by passage of oil exploration and drilling bans in California coastal waters.
As recently as 2015, the Refugio Oil Spill deposited just under 150,000 gallons of crude oil in the Pacific causing destruction of the coastal habitat and costing millions of dollars in clean-up costs. Failed offshore oil rigs near Santa Barbara and in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in massive environmental and economic damages, and the BP Deepwater Horizon ocean platform disaster cost $62 billion in damages and caused permanent loss of jobs and environmental damages.
The costs and risks associated with offshore drilling must be included in any calculus that is advanced by the administration, which chooses to see untapped ocean reserves as a “free” boost to our energy portfolio.
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Californians have pioneered a new energy frontier. The development of clean, renewable energy sources is not a distant dream or fantasy. The state has created a significant number of jobs in the renewable and clean energy economy, ten times more jobs than all of the fossil fuel development jobs in the nation.
With this in mind, to open offshore waters to oil drilling is reckless given the droughts, massive wildfires, floods and mudslides in California and globally that have been scientifically linked to climate change. We face a doomsday scenario if we do not radically reduce our carbon emitting energy dependence.
Unfortunately, the current administration is taking us backward with this proposal. The billions of dollars of anticipated investment in offshore oil drilling will result in no positive economic or environmental return. Were the administration to instead incentivize renewable energy production and use, we could create more high-paying jobs while joining the global community that has recognized the real threat of climate change and the moral imperative to reduce not expand our fossil fuel energy dependence.
Here in California, Senate Resolution 73 was recently introduced and urges the president and Congress to permanently safeguard and protect the Pacific Coast’s Outer Continental Shelf from new oil and gas leases, and expresses the state Senate’s unequivocal opposition to the proposed five-year National Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program. I am proud to be a coauthor of this resolution and send our federal representatives a clear message that this proposal poses grave environmental and economic risks.
It is incumbent on all of us as parents, grandparents and citizens of the world to raise a united voice to protect our precious ocean resources and oppose this ill-conceived proposal. Our local tourist, fishing and agricultural economies and our public health depend on it. Indeed, our very survival may be at stake.
State Sen. Bill Monning represents the 17th Senate District, which includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties and portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties.