By Dianne Feinstein
Originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent
California has been fighting offshore oil drilling for 50 years, and we are not going to relent now.
In the face of the Trump administration’s proposal to open all offshore waters in the country to oil rigs, California must remember our history if we’re to make good on our vision for a safer future.
California knows all too well the dangers of offshore oil drilling. In 1969, an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara leaked 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, blanketing beaches with a thick layer of oil and killing thousands of marine mammals and birds. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history until the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years later.
After the 1969 spill, California blocked all new offshore oil drilling in state waters, protecting our coastal waters up to three miles from the shore. The state reinforced that ban in a 1994 law.
We have also successfully fought off any new drilling in federal waters — water beyond three miles from our shore — since 1984 by blocking new lease sales thanks to a combination of local ordinances, congressional opposition, and bipartisan presidential support.
President Trump now wants to reverse course. He has proposed opening all federal waters, including the waters off California’s coast, to new gas and oil drilling. If this proposal is allowed to go through, it would lead to the first new offshore oil drilling leases sold in the Pacific Ocean in more than 30 years.
This proposal completely ignores the will of California’s people. According to the latest polling, nearly 70 percent of Californians oppose new drilling off our coast. Members of Congress and leaders in the state government have all been very vocal in making our opposition known to the president.
It should come as no surprise that California is not alone in this fight. States throughout the country are up in arms over President Trump’s offshore oil drilling proposal.
Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing political games in deciding which communities to antagonize. When Florida’s Republican governor voiced concern about local opposition and potential tourism impacts, Interior Secretary Zinke immediately announced that he would take Florida drilling off the table. Every state, including California, deserves the same deference.
California understands that offshore oil drilling belongs in the past and instead is making smarter investments in clean energy. Our state is on target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Our efforts will both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and create more jobs than offshore oil drilling — all while protecting the health of our coastal communities and their economies.
New offshore drilling is completely incompatible with these efforts. President Trump’s proposal for six lease sales off the California Coast by 2023 isn’t just a short-term problem. Any new oil rigs would continue to produce oil for decades to come, well past the middle of next century when we will need to have moved away from fossil fuels altogether.
We’re still dealing with the legacy of last century’s drilling. Even though we have fought off all new federal drilling for three decades, there are still 43 leases that remain active from federal lease sales that happened before 1984. And in state waters, there are still nine active rigs that were built before the Santa Barbara oil spill.
It was just three years ago that we were reminded of dangers of offshore drilling when a broken pipeline spilled more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil onto Refugio State Beach and leaked back into the ocean.
This Thursday, hundreds of miles from the coastal communities that will be affected by this proposal, the administration is holding its one and only public meeting for California in Sacramento. I would encourage all who are able to attend.
And for those who can’t travel to Sacramento, you can visit feinstein.senate.gov/offshoredrilling to post a comment for the administration by March 9.
Now is the time for all of us to raise our voices and reject President Trump’s proposal. California will not allow new offshore oil drilling to bring on another half-century of unnecessary carbon emissions and oil spill risks.