Bill aimed at blocking new oil rigs offshore heads to Gov. Jerry Brown

by in News

A bill that would be a major deterrent to new federal offshore oil leases was approved by the Assembly on Monday in a largely party-line vote and now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has spoken out against the proposed leases.

The measure, written in response to the Trump administration’s plan to open new leases offshore of all U.S. coastlines, would ban new oil infrastructure in state waters and on state lands. State waters extend 3 miles offshore, where federal waters begin.

Without the pipelines and other oil networks to bring the oil from federal waters to California refineries, environmentalists are optimistic that oil companies will not pursue the leases – and that the administration could choose to leave California out of any new leasing plan. The Assembly approved the measure 45-24, but some late votes were expected to be added to the tally.

“I believe the Trump administration would be reluctant to offer federal leases off of California once this is law,” said The Ocean Foundation’s Richard Charter, a longtime opponent to new drilling. “It seems likely to deter bidding on any new tracts that Interior Secretary (Ryan) Zinke might decide to offer off of the California coast.”

Opponents to new drilling cite the threat of oil spills, damage to marine life, visual blight and the negative impact those side effects would have on the state’s tourism economy. Foes also cite the state’s growing move to alternative sources of energy and the state’s policy away from petroleum as the primary source of power.

But those in the oil industry point out that the state’s dependence on imported oil has grown steadily since new offshore leases were last approved in 1984.

“California has the nation’s strongest environmental safeguards so it makes sense to meet our energy needs here under these strict standards, instead of relying upon more imported oil that is produced without these protections and impacts the environment when it is transported here by tanker ship or rail car,” said Rock Zierman, chief executive officer of the California Independent Petroleum Association, via email.

A similar bill, already approved by the Assembly, is now before the Senate, which had approved Monday’s version 24-8. Environmental activists are pushing for both measures to be approved and signed into law by Brown.

According to a tally by the environmental group Oceana, 65 California cities and counties have passed resolutions opposing new offshore drilling. They include Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu, as well as Los Angeles County.