California officials pledge to reject offshore drilling

By EnergyAssociated Press

California commissions that oversee coastal lands and water pushed the Trump administration Wednesday to leave the state out of plans to expand offshore drilling, warning the state would block pipelines to get oil back to land.

The agencies weighed in ahead of a public hearing Thursday in Sacramento, the only opportunity for people to register their opinions in person in California. Fishermen, environmentalists and other critics planned to protest outside the state Capitol before marching to the meeting a nearby library in Sacramento.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Emergency Management has proposed six sales of drilling rights off the California coast and a seventh off Oregon and Washington between 2020 and 2023.

But California's State Lands Commission said in a letter the state will resist the plan.

"Given how unpopular oil development in coastal waters is in California, it is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore," wrote the three commission members — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Controller Better Yee and Director of Finance Michael Cohen.

The commission oversees the first 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) offshore, at which point federal jurisdiction kicks in. It has not allowed drilling in the state-controlled waters since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara.

A letter from the California Coastal Commission also warned an oil spill would devastate the state's tourism economy and natural coastal beauty. They pointed to the Santa Barbara spill, which caused severe environmental damage, hurt local fishermen and dissuaded tourists from visiting.

On Tuesday, more than 100 demonstrators gathered outside Oregon's state Capitol in Salem to denounce the proposal before planning to go to a public meeting. Twenty-three meetings are planned nationwide, one in every state except Hawaii that touches the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Comments can also be submitted online through March 9.

Democratic attorneys general from a dozen coastal states, including California's Xavier Becerra, wrote a letter last week urging Zinke to cancel the plans for expanded drilling.

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