Trump Administration Moves to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

Offshore oil rig near Santa Barbara
Offshore oil rig near Santa Barbara | photo: Berardo62 via Wikimedia Commons

State and local elected officials and environmentalists lashed out Thursday at a Trump Administration proposal that would clear the way for oil drilling along U.S. coastal waters, including sites off Southern California.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed five-year leases for exploration of off-shore oil reserves, including sites stretching from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, many of which have been closed to drilling since the mid- 1980s.

"Nobody is better at producing clean, quality, responsible energy than the U.S.," Zinke said. "Clean, reliable, abundant and affordable energy is what's driving our economy."

Gov. Jerry Brown was quick to condemn the proposal, issuing a joint statement with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calling the idea a reckless threat to the coastal environment.

"They've chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states," the governors said. "They've chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Be we won't forget history or ignore science. For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action."

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The San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation said the proposal would threaten ocean recreation and the tourism and fishing industries, which have a multibillion-dollar economic impact nationally.

"Our ocean, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures to our coastal communities that will be polluted by new offshore oil drilling, regardless of whether or not there is a spill," said Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation. "Without a massive mobilization by coastal communities around the

country in opposition to new offshore drilling, our voice will be drowned out by the lobbying power of `Big Oil' in Washington, D.C."

Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara coast north of Goleta. May 2015 | photo David McNew/Getty Images
Oil surrounds the feet of a local resident as he patrols the beach for oiled wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement.| photo David McNew/Getty Images

Santa Monica-based public-advocacy group Consumer Watchdog called on Brown to send a message to Washington by immediately cut off drilling in state waters being done under existing leases within three miles of shore.

"It is time for Gov. 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," the organization's Liza Tucker said.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both D-Calif., also blasted the proposal.

"It's particularly shocking that the administration is pushing for new oil drilling off the coast of California," Feinstein said. "We still remember the horror of the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, when an offshore rig leaked more than 100,000 barrels."

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