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Sonoma County opposes Trump administration move to change offshore oil rule

Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday adopted a resolution opposing a Trump administration proposal to blunt one of California’s key legal defenses against expanded offshore oil drilling.

The resolution, which carries no legal authority, put the county on record against a proposal circulating within the U.S. Commerce Department that could ease the path for expanded offshore oil development in federal waters, including off California.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district covers the Sonoma Coast, said she was advised of the obscure federal issue by Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a veteran anti-drilling activist whom she called a “west county treasure.”

“Right now, it’s critical to do anything we can on the local level to protect our precious coastal resources,” Hopkins said in a text message.

The proposal is to streamline a rule that requires consistency between federal offshore oil development plans and coastal management programs in 34 states, including California.

Charter, a senior fellow with The Ocean Foundation, said the proposed rule making is a “an unsettling turn of events” as the administration is expected to soon release a revised five-year oil and gas leasing program. Whether the program includes the West Coast is uncertain, but it would replace a plan released in January 2018 that covered more than 90 percent of coastal waters, including six leases in California.

The requirement for consistency between federal and state coastal actions gives communities “a say in where and how offshore drilling takes place off their shores,” Charter said.

An “unwarranted removal of weakening” of the consistency requirement “could leave a coastal state virtually defenseless in the face of federal offshore drilling proposals,” the county resolution said.

California’s Democratic leaders and lawmakers condemned last year’s oil leasing plan, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill intended to block energy development in federal waters more than three miles offshore.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said last month he had no idea what to expect from the revised oil plan “and I don’t expect it to be good.”

The public comment period on the proposed rule making extends until April 25. Comments may be entered federalregister.gov.

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