Last month the Department of the Interior announced a plan to allow just about all U.S. offshore waters to oil and gas drilling. While most coastal states just expressed anger and concern about the potential for environmental damage, California found another way to fight back. They will not allow the offshore oil to ever get onshore in their state.
When Interior Secretary announced his plan to allow the fossil fuel industry mostly unrestricted access to pristine waters off U.S. coastlines last month, the residents and most politicians in nearly every state along the coast reacted with horror. With even only recent past history as a guide, and the enormous amount of drilling which will likely ensue under the plan, the chances for major environmental damage to happen someone from an oil leak or worse is high.
People across the country remember well BP Plc’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It cost billions of dollars in economic damage, took months to stop it completely, and in the meantime killed and created havoc for ecosystems all along the coastline from Texas across to Florida.
Californians have a more recent example of what they might have to look forward to. In 2015 another oil spill in Santa Barbara Country dumped 101,000 gallons (382,000 liters or 2,400 barrels) on the Southern California coastline and also out into the Pacific. Oil slicks running over nine miles spread along the area, seriously damaging local ecosystems.
Officials from Delaware, North and South Carolina, and Florida, along the East Coast, and Washington along the west warned the new drilling could damage beaches and hurt wildlife. They also expressed high concerns of what even one spill might do to their important coastal tourist industries.
Florida had thought they were going to be exempted, based on an early pledge by Zinke after they were one of the first to cry foul. That may not be holding, however, since as recently as January 24 the acting head of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said Florida’s coast was still “under consideration for offshore drilling”.
California’s approach, which leverages the power of having a long western coastline, is much tougher. On February 7 its State Lands Commission authorized a letter to be sent to the BOEM urging they immediately withdraw their draft proposal to allow the drilling. In an emailed statement connected with that announcement, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the Chair of the State Lands Commission escalated to make their point even clearer. There he said that, “I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California.” He went on to add that, “It is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore.”
In the escalating war between the pro-fossil fuel industry team headed up by Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke – and both government officials across the country and activist groups who oppose it, the announcement to block the movement of the newly-drilled crude oil onshore is a real “shot across the bow”. There will be lawsuits. In reaction, there will also be further escalation on other issues by the Trump White House, which is already in various fights regarding California’s Sanctuary Cities.
The one thing this escalating battle will not be – is boring.