California officials vow to block oil from Trump’s drilling plan, will deny pipeline permits

California officials vow to block oil from Trump’s drilling plan, will deny pipeline permits
Laguna Beach City Council member Toni Iseman attends the Oceana Rally Against Offshore Drilling on Saturday in Laguna Beach, California. California officials vowed Wednesday to deny pipeline permits and block transportation of oil and gas in an attempt to stifle President Donald Trump's plan to open nearly all federal waters to drilling. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

California officials vowed Wednesday to deny pipeline permits and block transportation of oil and gas in an attempt to stifle President Donald Trump’s plan to open nearly all federal waters to drilling.

In a letter to the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the California State Lands Commission declared that it has “resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California.”

California has maintained a tough stance on offshore drilling for decades, following an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. More recently, the Refugio oil spill in 2015 resulted in roughly 3,400 barrels of crude oil (142,000 gallons) leaking into the ocean, with oil slicks that stretched over nine miles. The spill caused the deaths of an estimated 204 birds and 106 marine mammals.

The commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democratic candidate for governor, insisted that Californians had not adequately voiced their concerns and urged the bureau’s manager, Kelly Hammerle, to abandon the five-year plan, which stands as the largest proposed expansion in decades, overhauling an Obama-era ban on drilling that covered 100 million acres.

In the letter, the commission said that Californians “will not be complacent in the face of Donald Trump’s deliberate partisan assault on California, its people, and its economy, and we will use every tool available to resist his cynical, regressive agenda.”

“The polluting fossil fuel industry has perpetuated inequality by burdening disadvantaged communities with toxic air pollution from refineries, and it would be unethical to intensify these impacts by expanding oil production,” it added.

The letter declared that the state will “not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore.”

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already spoken with at least seven governors and has vowed to speak with the rest of the governors from states affected by the offshore drilling plan. With the exception of Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), the governors of every Pacific and Atlantic state governors have voiced concerns or sworn to challenge the plan, The Hill reported.

In January, U.S. Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said, “Creating a five-year program is a very open and public process, and Secretary Zinke looks forward to meeting with governors and other coastal representatives who want to discuss the draft program.”

Critics of the plan, including officials from five coastal states, are concerned that offshore drilling could be detrimental to wildlife, beaches, and tourism.

Last month, President Donald Trump issued an exemption for Florida in the offshore drilling plan just days after its announcement.

Trump has championed the plan, which is part of his “American energy dominance” agenda, as a way for the U.S. to benefit from “great energy wealth.”

“We want to grow our nation’s offshore energy industry, instead of slowly surrendering it to foreign shores,” Zinke said, noting that “under President Trump, we’re going to have the strongest energy policy, and become the strongest energy superpower. And we certainly have the assets to do that.”

California State Controller and Commissioner Betty Yee told officials that the “fossil fuel era is ending, and our coast and waters are not for sale.” She added that the State Lands Commission “will vigorously fight this reckless federal proposal in defense of our people, our environment, and our economy” and called the plan “wholly irresponsible.”

In a Feb. 6 tweet, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) said that “California won’t back down. We don’t want offshore oil drilling threatening our coast.”

The Interior Department is accepting comments from the public through March 9.

“All comments will be considered in developing a proposed program document — the next step in the five-year program — that will be made available for public comment and review by governors of affected states and Congress before final decisions are published,” she said.