President Trump’s offshore oil plan promises jobs, provokes California protest
President Donald Trump has doubled down on his call for greater U.S. fossil fuel production, setting the stage Friday for expanded offshore oil drilling and potentially rolling back the North Coast’s sole defense against the prospect of oil rigs dotting the scenic shoreline.
The 30th executive order signed by the president in his first 99 days in office called for leasing of oil drilling tracts “to the maximum extent permitted by law,” accompanied by Trump’s verbal pledge that it would create thousands of high-paying jobs and make the nation more secure.
“This is a great day for American workers and families,” Trump said at a White House ceremony.
Veterans of the decadeslong push to ban oil drilling on California coast, however, said the order amounted to the clearest threat of new drilling since Congress banned new offshore extraction in 1982.
The state’s top Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown, blasted Trump’s action. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the order “reckless and unnecessary.”
“It’s frightening that something we thought was secure and safe could be undone,” said Lynn Woolsey, the former North Coast congresswoman from Petaluma who worked for expansion of two national marine sanctuaries for most of her 20-year career on the Hill. She saw it finally accomplished three years after she retired in 2012.
The expansion, enacted by former President Barack Obama, doubled the size of the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries, moving their reach — and prohibition against oil drilling — 60 miles north from Bodega Head to Point Arena in Mendocino County.
The adjacent Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary extends south to Cambria in San Luis Obispo County.
“This issue was settled,” Feinstein said in her sharply worded statement. “Coastal communities made it clear they don’t want offshore drilling. The president’s executive order ignores those concerns and the real threat of climate change to give oil and gas companies access to new areas that they do not need.”
Trump’s order instructs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to review all marine sanctuary expansions in the past 10 years, a step environmentalists and public officials fear could be a precursor to rescinding them or shrinking their size. It precludes designation of any new sanctuary without a “full accounting” of the area’s energy or mineral resource potential.
The “American-First Offshore Energy Strategy” unveiled Friday also requires Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the government’s five-year oil and natural gas drilling plan, potentially rewriting the Obama plan, finalized in November, that limited oil and gas development from 2017 to 2022 to the Gulf of Mexico and a small Alaskan inlet.
Drilling foes hailed that Obama-era plan, while the oil industry chafed under the prohibition against drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.
No new oil leases in California waters have been sold to oil companies since 1984, owing to bipartisan opposition to oil drilling in the wake of the disastrous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.
There are, however, 23 oil and gas platforms operating off the Southern California coast that produced about 6 million barrels of oil and 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas last year.
Now, environmentalists contend the oil industry is at home in the Trump administration and intent on turning the tables.