California got a reprieve from President Barack Obama's move Wednesday dramatically expanding offshore oil and natural gas drilling along the nation's coasts.

But North Coast environmentalists, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, and an oil industry official all found fault with Obama's first major step into the politically charged, 30-year-old issue.

"California remains in as much jeopardy as ever," said Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a veteran anti-drilling lobbyist.

Obama's drilling plan, which runs through 2017, opens new areas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico to drilling while leaving the Pacific untouched, thus giving California a "temporary reprieve," Charter said.

"After 2017, all bets are off," said Charter, consultant to Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, an environmental lobbying group.

Woolsey, D-Petaluma, a longtime drilling foe, said she was happy the West Coast was "spared for the time being," but found Obama's plan "really disappointing."

"2017 is just around the corner. We all know that," she said.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said she was encouraged by Obama's recognition of the need to develop "conventional oil and gas energy resources available to all Americans, right here at home."

But she said the 28-member trade association was disappointed by Obama's decision to continue excluding California's "resource-rich" waters from energy development.

A congressional moratorium on offshore oil drilling, in place since 1982, lapsed during the 2008 presidential campaign that included Republican demands to "drill now" and was augmented by public frustration over $4-a-gallon gasoline.

Obama had signaled his intention in his State of the Union address in January, forecasting "tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development."

Rachel Binah of Mendocino County, a Democratic National Committee member who backed Obama in 2008, said she was not surprised by the president's plan.

"It's a sad day for me," said Binah, an anti-drilling activist since 1984.

But Binah said she sees a geopolitical pattern to the plan, with concessions on drilling for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, both Democrats, while protecting Alaska's environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay.

California "dodged a bullet" on oil drilling thanks to the influence of Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also Democrats, she said.

Obama is bidding for Republican support on a climate bill, Binah said. "I think there's a lot of politics behind it," she said.

A gallon of regular gas cost an average of $3.10 a gallon Wednesday in Santa Rosa, up 10 cents from a month ago and 90 cents higher than a year ago. But debate in the wake of Obama's announcement Wednesday was otherwise little different from before.

Woolsey said it was "more important than ever" to secure congressional approval of her bill to more than double the size of two North Coast marine sanctuaries, which carry a permanent ban on drilling.

The sanctuaries currently protect 1,781 square miles of ocean from just north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Bodega Head, and Woolsey's bill would add 1,875 square miles, extending the protection to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Woolsey said she was confident the House will reauthorize her bill, and she hopes to get Boxer's companion measure tacked onto the Senate energy bill this year.

But Woolsey said it is probably "impossible" to block Obama's drilling plan in Congress. It's not a purely partisan issue, she said, noting there are "oil patch" representatives in both political parties.

The energy industry points to government estimates that 10.5 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie off California's 840-mile coast. A basin off the Mendocino and Humboldt coast holds untapped reserves of about 1.58 billion barrels of oil and 1.64 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the estimates

Tapping the Golden State's entire energy reserves would create more than 14,000 jobs, $691 million in employment income and $12 billion in government revenues by 2020, Reheis-Boyd said.

California imports nearly half of its crude oil from foreign countries and will have to boost that amount as Alaskan and onshore California oil production dwindles, she said.

Without added offshore oil development, the state would have to bring in more oil by tanker, and "we don't want that," Reheis-Boyd said.

Woolsey dismissed the economic benefit of offshore oil drilling, saying it is "not worth the trade-off" of potential harm to the tourism and fishing industries.

The state's offshore oil reserves amount to a two- to three-year supply for the nation, which Woolsey called "a drop in the bucket." Developing alternative sources is the path to energy independence, she said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said he applauded Obama's decision to "continue to protect California's coast."

Expanded drilling would "cause irreparable harm upon our resources and economy," he said in a statement.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.