President Trump recently released plans to open nearly all US waters to offshore drilling
California's response: “Aint. Gonna. Happen."
More than a dozen US coastal states have opposed the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all US waters to offshore drilling. While the Department of the Interior says it takes into account public feedback – as was the case in a controversial decision for Florida – ultimately states do not have control over leasing since it takes place in federal waters.
Until now that is. California thinks it may have found a loophole.
It’s a tactic used the last time the West Coast was open for offshore drilling in the 1980s under President Reagan. The Golden State was still reeling from the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara that leaked 21,000 gallons of oil before being capped 12 days later.
At the time, it was the worst oil spill in the nation’s history and it sparked an idea. Sure, federal waters are regulated by the federal government, but what about the resources drillers need on land?
Pipelines, helicopter pads, docking systems – you name it. An offshore drilling rig is still very much reliant on infrastructure onshore.
The California State Lands Commission said in a letter earlier this week to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that it will not issue the pipeline permits extractors need to bring oil and gas to land. The California Coastal Commission says it will not allow any existing drilling infrastructure to be used for new leases or operations. They intend to argue that building or renovating new systems (docks, pipelines, etc.) goes against the federally approved coastal management plan.
“Californians are vigorous advocates for their coast, and the prospect of new drilling in coastal waters provokes fierce opposition and sparks outrage,” reads the letter.
It’s easy to see why: The letter says more than $2 trillion of California's $2.35-trillion gross domestic product comes from coastal counties.
The California Coastal Commission, which reviews oil and gas activity off the shore, has also formally opposed offshore drilling.
Without access to land-based infrastructure, drillers would need to use expensive alternatives that involve pumping hydrocarbons into massive floating storage stations and transferring oil onto ships for export. But with US crude oil down to $48 a barrel, it’s uncertain whether companies would want to shoulder the extra costs.
Since Trump deemed the rules and regulations put in place following the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 “unnecessary”, BOEM has proposed six drilling sites off the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts between 2020 and 2023.
Environmentalists denounced the plan, saying it would impose “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health, and marine health.
It’s safe to say coastal states aren’t stoked about it either.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra says California “banned offshore drilling for a reason: we don’t want it and because we know what happens when it goes wrong.”
Oregon and Washington governors have also said they’d like to be "off the table".
California legislatures are considering a bill that would ban oil pipelines and piers in state-controlled waters, but whether it will work or not is yet to be determined.