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Public Hearing, March Against Drilling Off California Coast

Conservation groups say new offshore oil drilling on the Pacific coast would be especially harmful to whales, seals and sea lions. (BOEM)
Conservation groups say new offshore oil drilling on the Pacific coast would be especially harmful to whales, seals and sea lions. (BOEM)
February 7, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Trump administration has proposed opening up almost all federal waters to oil and gas drilling, including the California coast – and the one and only public hearing in the state takes place Thursday afternoon in Sacramento.

A coalition of opposition groups is planning a march and rally on the steps of the State Capitol just before the hearing, which is being held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Analise Rivero, California program coordinator with the group Defenders of Wildlife, says new offshore drilling would be extremely disruptive for marine life.

"For example, the deafening seismic testing that precedes drilling exploration wreaks havoc on marine wildlife, disturbing their natural behaviors and impairing their hearing," she points out.

No new drilling in state waters has been allowed since 1969, when 100,000 barrels of oil fouled the Santa Barbara coast and helped launch the modern environmental movement.

No new leases in federal waters have been permitted since 1984. But the Department of the Interior wants to have the first lease sale in Southern California in 2020 and in Northern and Central California in 2021.

The Trump administration argues that the U.S. should fully develop the commercial potential of undersea oil and gas reserves.

Opponents in California are hoping the public will flood a website, regulations.gov, with complaints before the public comment period ends on March 9.

Rivero notes that a catastrophic spill would ruin the $20 billion tourism economy and do severe harm to the fishing industry. And she says, more drilling would take the energy sector backward, not forward.

"Expansion of offshore drilling operations would only increase our dependence on fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change at a time when California should be moving towards a low-carbon economy," she stresses.

The Trump administration took Florida's coasts off the list for drilling when that state's Republican governor complained that drilling would hurt tourism and the environment.

Both Gov. Jerry Brown and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra have demanded that the Trump administration take the California Coast off the list for new drilling.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA