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This Earth Day, Conservation Groups Decry Offshore-Drilling Expansion

Offshore-drilling lease sales for California could start next year, first off of Southern California, then off the central and northern coast. (BOEM)
Offshore-drilling lease sales for California could start next year, first off of Southern California, then off the central and northern coast. (BOEM)
April 22, 2019

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Just in time for Earth Day today, the environmental group Oceana is calling for a halt to the Trump administration's moves to radically expand offshore oil and gas drilling and roll back safety measures.

Their new report, "Dirty Drilling," found the risk of another catastrophic oil spill is growing because any day now, the administration is expected to finalize its proposal to open up 98 percent of federal waters to oil leases. Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins noted the feds have proposed four lease sales in California, starting next year.

"We shouldn't be expanding dirty and dangerous drilling when there is overwhelming bipartisan opposition from those that have the most to lose,” Hoskins said. “Instead, we should be implementing safety reforms, not rolling back the too-few safety measures that are already in place."

A 90-day public comment period will commence once the final offshore drilling proposal is released. Hoskins said the administration already has finalized plans to weaken the production-systems safety rule but still is considering changes to the well-control rule.

President Donald Trump has defended his policy, saying the U.S. should make use of its natural resources to ensure energy independence in the future.

The report also claims the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is too friendly to oil and gas companies. Hoskins said, in addition, the feds are relying on safety standards written by the industry itself.

"The agency is regularly granting exemptions from offshore-drilling safety requirements,” she said. “Essentially, BSEE is relinquishing its independence, blurring the lines between regulator and the regulated."

Sunday was the nine-year anniversary of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There hasn't been an offshore lease sale in federal waters off of California since 1984, or in state waters since the sixties. Santa Barbara suffered a major oil spill in 1969, and a smaller one in 2015.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA