California lawmakers pass bills to effectively ban new offshore oil drilling

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California lawmakers have approved two bills aimed at thwarting the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling on the Pacific coast.

The virtually identical measures, which are expected to be merged by August, prohibit the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases for oil facilities, such as pipelines, piers and platforms, in the 3-mile area off the coast controlled by the state.

Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a veteran offshore oil drilling opponent, said the bills are “absolutely the strongest thing any state can do to draw a line in the sand” against offshore fossil-fuel development.

“Protection of California waters is a done deal,” he said.

Charter, a senior fellow with The Ocean Foundation, said Friday he was at the state Capitol this week lobbying dozens of lawmakers for their votes.

The Assembly measure passed Wednesday on a 45-24 vote, and the Senate bill got off the floor the same day on a 24-8 vote, both seemingly comfortable margins.

But Charter said he was gratified by a handful of Republican votes in the Assembly, calling it evidence that “attacks on the conservation ethics in this country are starting to make people in both parties nervous.”

In January, the Trump administration announced a plan to sell oil-drilling rights in more than 90 percent of federal offshore waters, with 47 potential leases in every ocean that touches the nation, including six along the California coast.

Top state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, immediately pledged to oppose the drilling plan.

Charter said he has no doubt Brown will sign the measure that blends the Assembly and Senate bills.

It’s important, he said, because federal law requires that oil leasing plans must “consider the laws, goals and policies of affected states” and the bill would make California’s position clear.

Sandy Aylesworth of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement the Assembly vote “sends a clear message to Washington, D.C. — our marine treasures and clean energy future will not be sold off to corporate interests.”

State Sens. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg and Bill Dodd of Napa and Assembly members Jim Wood of Santa Rosa, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Winters and Marc Levine of San Rafael, all Democrats, voted for the bills.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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