Central Coast waters possible target for offshore drilling under new executive order

Apr 28, 2017

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters and the outer continental shelf. It calls for a review of current five-year plan for oil and gas leases, and directs the secretary of the interior to establish a streamlined permitting process. 

Under the order, the Trump administration will seek to reverse President Obama’s permanent removal of large areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from all future oil and gas exploration, and the current plan that prohibit new lease sales off California’s coast through 2022.

At the signing ceremony, Trump said he was going to "lift the restrictions of American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.”

Central Coast lawmakers immediately denounced the executive order. Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) spoke on the House floor Friday.

"The Central Coast knows all too well the havoc wreaked from gas and oil platforms off our coast. We cannot afford another disastrous oil spill," Congressman Salud Carbajal said, adding that California’s coastal region generates over $1.9 trillion per year in GDP. "This Order poses a direct threat to our local tourism economies and the success of local businesses, which are undeniably tied to a clean coast and healthy thriving ocean ecosystems. "

“This executive order’s intent to expand offshore oil drilling could threaten our and our children’s way of life. Instead of endangering our pristine coastlines and healthy ocean, we should be supporting research for cleaner power and investing in renewable energy resources," said Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) in a statement. "I will be vigilantly monitoring the implementation of this executive order and I will continue to fight against any attempts to reopen California’s coast to offshore oil drilling.”

At the state level, late Friday morning Santa Barbara state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson announced she and other lawmakers are introducing legislation in response.

"For the past 30 years, we’ve had bipartisan support for a moratorium for further offshore oil drilling in federal waters off the coast of California," Jackson said. "Republican and Democratic administrations alike have understood and seen the wisdom from the risks posed by offshore oil development. "

Friday’s announced California bill would prohibit the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases in state waters. While the state can’t block what happens three miles and further off the coast in federal waters, they can block construction of the necessary pipelines and other shoreside infrastructure needed for new or expanded drilling.

In mid-November, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released the federal government’s oil and gas leasing program for offshore federal waters through 2022. Under the plan, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would not sell leases to oil companies that involve new drilling off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, including federal waters from Hearst Castle to Point Conception. That program is currently in effect from 2017 through 2022, and is the target of the new executive order review.