Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Nancy Kaufman
Observer Staff Writer 

Offshore Drilling & Oil Spills Threaten Entire Pacific Ecosystems, Says Local Panel

What impact could Trump's drilling plan have on Southern California's golden coastline

 

Nancy Kaufman

Panelists displayed photos of BP Drilling Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

California's Pacific waters could be in peril if Trump's proposal to open up sensitive coastlines becomes a reality. Oceana's Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Sharpless, said, "Offshore drilling and oil spills threaten entire ecosystems."

At last Saturday's "Offshore Oil Drilling's Threat to Our Coast," forum, presented by Malibu Township council, the panelists discussed the environmental and economic impact Trump's Adminstration's drilling plan could have on Southern California's golden coastline .

The panelists consisted of government officials, and legal and environmental experts.

The president of Malibu Township Council, Richard Lawrence, when giving the introductory remarks, read a letter written by Secretary Leon e. Panetta, who, although had been invited to address the forum was unable to attend, addressed the forum via the written word.

Panetta said, "Protecting our oceans and the beauty of our incredible coastline is a responsiblity we all share as stewards of our environment."

"To be effective," Panetta said, The people must be organized, determined and unrelenting."

A common theme at the forum, the panelists emphasized, was how significant of the voicing public opinion is to our democracy.

The Honorable Ted Lieu, Representative , 33rd Congressional District, was the first panelist to address the audience and talked about how we must fight against Secretary Zinke, who he said had disappointed him by opening up 90 per cent of pubic land shore to off shore drilling.

Lieu spoke of how we have the power to shape public opinion, and quoted President Lincoln's words, " public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. "

It is through social media, protests, rallies, and writing letters to the editors of newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times, and coming to events such as this one, that Lieu said, can be effective to stopping the Trump Administration from drilling off of California's shores.

A very important point that was raised by Lieu, was that of the case of Florida. Secretary Zinke met with the governor who told him that he did not want the drilling off the shores of Florida's coast because local officials told him not to do it because Florida's coastal economy is a big contributor to the state's economy. But, as Lieu said, "California 's coastal economy is even bigger."

Panelist, Dayna Bochco, Chair of California Coastal Commission, told the audience that a presidential override has the right to determine if the leases for drilling off the California coast are in paramount interest of the nation. Furthermore, she explained, that if sales of leases start, the commission has the jurisdiction to give permit, and if we object to their drilling, the oil company then has the opportunity to go to the Secretary of Commerce. If the Department of Commerce decides leases further national interest, they can allow the leases to go forward. This is a complex and expensive situation. In the end, it is not practical for the oil companies.

Panelist, Jeremy wolf, field and environmental representative of state Senator Henry Stern, said the new off shore drilling plan wll be too expensive. He said the game plan is to make it too expensive to pipe oil from rigs to shore. This will cost the oil companies a million dollars per new well. He also said he is "cautiously optimistic this new plan will stop them from coming in ," and added, "But trump is vindictive cause California stands for everything they are against."

Damon Nagami, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, also weighed in as a panelist, discussing the legal aspects of Trump's off shore drilling plan. He explained the logical inconsistency and violation of at least two federal laws regarding the Florida exemption case.

Nagami said that Secretary Zinke released the proposed five- year plan to open for exploration the largest expanse for offshore drilling for oil companies in January, 2018. This was the first new lease sales since 1984. Four days later, after meeting with Rick Scott, Zinke decided no offshore drilling in Florida. The reason this is a legal violation of two federal laws, is because the law requires pulic comment and review of environmental consquences before decisions are arrived.

The week of March 20th the court allowed California 's suit to proceed. "Fortuneatly,", Nagami said, " the judge debunked Trump's argument; the president can be sued for exceeding constitutional powers." Nagami also referred to the president as "King Trump."

According to panelist Nancy Hasting, grassroots activist of Oceana, Senate Bill 834 an Assembly Bill 1775, are both state legislation that blocks infrastructure and makes it cost prohibitive to drill off the state of California.

There is statewide opposition to Trump's plan, including Governor Brown, wildlife agenicies and over forty municipal resolutions opposing offshore oil and gas drilling.

The economic impact of off shore drilling was revealed in facts and numbers on an overhead screen. California fishing tourism and recreation brings in 60,000 jobs and 42.3 Billion Dollars in GDP. The National Coastal Economy is a whopping $115 billion.

The potential for economic and marine life loss is a very real threat that the panelists at the forum emphasized through facts displayed on the screen.

It is not a matter of if, but when there will be a spill off the California shore, because when there are pipelines and drilling, leaks or spills eventually happen. Cleaning up the mess, seeing birds dead in a coat of oil, and tourists and residents not being able to enjoy swimming, surfing and walking along the beautiful beaches can all be prevented if there is no off shore drilling.

Nancy Kaufman

Offshore drilling and oil spills threaten entire ecosystems, says panel

The final assessment for Trump's off shore drilling plan in California will be in late 2019 or 2020. There will be a 60 day comment period to allow for public comment. At every stage public opinion is re -evaluated and narrowed down until the final program is approved by the federal government. It's possible California could be taken out at that point. In order for residents to know when to post comments, one of the panelists advised checking the website, Protect the Pacific(https://protectthepacific.com)to stay informed and updated.

The website will share talking points for what to write in the personal messages that California residents are encouraged to write. The basic idea will be to express why we care about why we should not have drilling off our coastline.

Protect the Pacific will keep the community informed for commentary periods to voice public opinion. The key to prevent Trump's off shore drilling plan from coming a reality in california is public opinion.

https://protectthepacific.com

 

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