Advocacy group calls on governors to follow California's lead on offshore drilling

California, Washington state and North Carolina are among those expressing concern about federal plans to open waters up to the oil and gas industry.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:47 AM
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Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Governors from U.S. coastal states are being called to follow the lead of California after that state moved to block the flow of oil from offshore rigs, an advocacy group said.

A public hearing is scheduled Thursday in California on a five-year drilling plan outlined by the U.S. Interior Department in January. It's the only public hearing scheduled in California and, on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom moved ahead of the federal government by saying the state would forbid the development of any new offshore pipelines or allow existing networks to be used to carry oil onshore.

The proposed program, opened for public comment, called for 19 lease sales offshore Alaska, seven in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic. The lease proposal was criticized as a gift from U.S. President Donald Trump to the oil industry

"I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump's new oil plan ever makes landfall in California, where our leadership in reducing emissions and curbing pollution has enabled exceptional economic growth," Newsom said in a statement.

In early January Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the oil thirst from the Trump administration was reckless. In 1969, more than 100,000 barrels of oil were spilled offshore California and there's been no drilling there since the 1980s. At the time, the Democratic senator said the "days of drilling for oil are numbered."

Industry figures show that oil and natural gas could account for about 75 percent of the global demand expected over the next 20 years. With the United States emerging as a dominant global exporter of oil and gas, industry leaders said tapping more offshore resources makes sense.

Greenpeace, however, said California could be the proving ground for opposition to the Trump administration's offshore plans.

"Greenpeace urges all other coastal governors to follow California's example and take similar actions to block the use of pipelines for oil from new offshore drilling," Greenpeace campaigner Vicky Wyatt said in an emailed statement.

The proposal sparked controversy when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told Florida Gov. Rick Scott his state was removed from drilling consideration. Later, however, federal officials said that wasn't the case.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday asked the Trump administration to remove his state from offshore drilling consideration. Last week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper met with Zinke to express his concern that drilling would jeopardize the state's $3 billion coastal economy.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Not off our coast," Cooper said in his statement.

There's been no official comment from Florida's governor since Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, testified that the state was still under drilling consideration.

There's been no federal response yet to state opposition to drilling offshore, either. In his obligatory National Security Strategy, Trump said the United States under his direction would use its newfound role as an energy exporter to become an oil and gas superpower.

A formal proposal on the offshore plan is expected in late 2018, followed by another 90-day comment period. A proposed final program for the lease isn't expected until late 2019. Approval would come 60 days after that.

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