California Needs to Vote to Stop New Offshore Drilling in Our State

California state legislators can take a stand against offshore drilling by voting yes on two bills this week.

This week, our California state legislators can finally stand squarely against Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, but only if they vote yes on two critical bills.

The two bills up for a vote, S.B. 834 and A.B. 1775, would prohibit the State Lands Commission, which has jurisdiction over state waters, from granting new leases for pipelines and other infrastructure that could transport oil and gas from offshore drilling rigs to land. Passage of the bills would both protect our precious coastline from the dangers of offshore drilling and would send a strong message to Trump that California stands opposed to drilling. Our legislators must vote yes on both of these bills in order to safeguard our shores.

Opposing offshore drilling in California is not controversial. The latest polls confirm that California voters overwhelmingly (nearly 70 percent) are opposed to new drilling off our shores. Governor Brown has opposed Trump’s plans to expand offshore drilling as reckless and short-sighted. And both major-party candidates to be California’s next governor oppose more drilling. More than 50 cities and counties have also passed resolutions supporting a ban on new offshore oil and gas development. Even the state agencies like the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission, who are responsible for regulating our beautiful coasts, have expressed opposition. And for good reason.

The expansion of oil and gas drilling is a terrible idea. California has already suffered the devastating effects of large, long-lasting oil spills. A major oil spill disaster nearly 50 years ago off the coast of Santa Barbara spread millions of gallons of oil over 800 square miles. Coastal communities that depend on healthy, clean oceans are still feeling the effects to this day. The Refugio oil spill in 2015 was the latest reminder that oil and gas drilling hurts California. That spill released more than 140,000 gallons of oil over 150 miles in Santa Barbara County, closing public beaches and fishing areas and killing hundreds of dolphins, seals and other wildlife.

California is a leader on climate change and environmental protection and needs to remain so. Our state is leading the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a 21st-century clean energy economy. New offshore drilling would not only set back that progress, but would also put our state at risk from the oil industry’s push to expand the 19th century fossil fuel economy.

The vote this week in the legislature is critical to ensure that the voices of California citizens steer state law. Even though state politicians and agencies have spoken out against offshore drilling, future leaders could still allow it if these bills do not pass. And state agencies would still have discretion to open our coasts if membership or whims change. Passing these bills now would be the best way to protect our waters and way of life. That’s why we all need to take the time to call our state legislators and urge them to vote yes on both S.B. 834 and A.B. 1775. The future of our coastal environment depends on us. The time to speak out is now.

A senior attorney in the Oceans Program, Brettny's litigation work includes endangered species protections, offshore oil drilling, and seismic issues.

Earthjustice’s Oceans Program uses the power of the law to safeguard imperiled marine life, reform fisheries management, stop the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling, and increase the resiliency of ocean ecosystems to climate change.

A line forms outside of the public hearing about President Trump’s plans to expand offshore oil drilling.
A line forms outside of the public hearing in Sacramento about President Trump’s plans to expand offshore oil drilling. The hearing took the format of an open house consisting of science-fair-type displays, with no opportunity for attendees to address officials. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)