Saturday, January 6, 2018

California Mounts Resistance to Trump Administration's New Oil Drilling Proposal

California's the center of "The Resistance" against the Trump administration, and more pathetic examples are coming fast and furious since the new year came around.

Another reason to get out of this state as fast as you can (and unfortunately, I can't right now; not until I retire, if then, depending on what my wife wants to do; hopefully we'll bail out for more conservative/libertarian pastures).

In any case, at LAT, "California has many weapons in its arsenal to block new offshore oil drilling":

There are two things working against the Trump administration's proposal to open up California coastal waters to new oil and gas drilling: state regulators and simple economics.

California has powerful legal tools to head off new offshore development, and the price of oil offers little incentive to the energy industry to pursue expensive drilling projects next to a hostile state.

"I don't think there's any reasonable chance that there will be any leasing or drilling along the coast," said Ralph Faust, former general counsel for the California Coastal Commission. "This just seems like grandstanding" by the Trump administration.

The Interior Department on Thursday released plans to open vast areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to new oil and gas exploration and drilling through a five-year leasing program that would begin in 2019.

But there are myriad obstacles opponents can throw in front of the proposal, not to mention questions about whether the oil industry has much of an interest in California's offshore reserves at a time when domestic oil production is at its highest level in decades.

Under the plan, the federal government would offer 47 leases in U.S. waters on the outer continental shelf, including two each off the Northern, Central and Southern California coasts and one off Washington and Oregon.

The governors of all three states issued a joint statement Thursday saying they would do whatever it takes to block new leasing off their shores, which include some of the nation's most pristine coastlines.

The first hurdle for the Trump plan is a period of public comment and an extensive environmental review under federal law, which opponents can use to challenge the proposal as ecologically harmful.

In California, the state coastal commission also has the authority to review activities in federal waters to ensure they are consistent with the state's coastal management plans.

"The commission has extremely broad and very powerful authority to say 'no' to federal actions that would harm the coast of California and harm coastal waters," said Steve Mashuda, an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization.

The commission is ready to use it.

"Nothing galvanizes bi-partisan resistance in California like the threat of more offshore oil drilling," coastal commission Chairwoman Dayna Bochco said in a statement. "We've fought similar efforts before, and we will fight them again."

While the U.S. Secretary of Commerce could override a commission finding that new oil drilling violated the state's management plan, federal courts have tended to side with states in such contests...