by Chris White
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Saturday effectively prohibiting new federal offshore oil drilling along California’s coast, and announced that he opposes plans to expand crude exploration on public lands in the state.
The legislation he signed blocks the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling through the prohibition on new leases for new construction of oil and gas-related infrastructure, such as oil pipelines. Brown has worked to cultivate a status as one of President Donald Trump’s chief opponents.
“Today, California’s message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now,” the Democratic governor noted in a press statement announcing the move. “We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast.”
Brown also submitted formal opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to open new public land and mineral estates for oil and gas lease sales. His move comes nearly six months after officials on the California Coastal Commission urged the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to rescind plans allowing companies to drill for oil off the coast.
“It has been more than twenty years since the Bureau of Land Management last expanded the availability of federal public lands and mineral estates for oil and gas leases in the Central Valley and Central Coast of California,” Brown wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Since then, the world’s understanding of the threats of climate change has greatly advanced and, in many cases, these threats have become reality.”
Trump issued executive orders in 2017, nixing former President Barack Obama-era regulations on offshore drilling that are worth $288 million over a decade. Obama put the rules in place after six years of study into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A gas leak caused the explosion and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
California’s decision could set it on a collision course with the Trump administration and the courts. The state has control over the first three miles west from the coast, and the federally owned Outer Continental Shelf includes waters up to three miles out from that line.
California officials can therefore control pipelines, transportation of materials, terminals, and refineries built in coastal areas. The federal government could pull out the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause to create a regulatory framework that would override California law.
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