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Trump offshore drilling plan faces wellspring of opposition in California

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Numerous state agencies provided comments to the Department of the Interior as it was hashing out its offshore-drilling plans—including the California Coastal Commission and the California State Lands Commission. They were joined in opposition by the state's Office of the Attorney General and the California Fish and Game Commission.

The Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission would be responsible for implementing federally approved coastal-management programs through the issuance of permits. In its comments to the BOEM, the Coastal Commission says it is "steadfastly opposed to any new leasing in 'frontier' areas of the OCS." New drilling activities would mean new drilling platforms, pipelines "and other infrastructure that would likely cause significant adverse effects on coastal resources."

The commission cites impacts to commercial fishing, tourism, marine wildlife and wetlands, and says that "expanded use of fracking and other well-stimulation treatments increases the risk of an oil spill occurring and potentially causing devastating statewide environmental impacts."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra noted in the BOEM report that oil companies were not exactly clamoring to pursue new exploratory wells in California waters even if there's general support in the industry to undo the Obama no-drill push.

The Shell Oil Company, for example, urged Zinke in the BOEM report to "make new OCS areas available to assess the extent of United States energy resources," as it expressed disappointment in Obama for banning offshore drilling and urged Trump to "quickly replace the current national OCS program and grant access to new areas." Shell has numerous leases in Southern California waters. So do the Koch brothers.

Meanwhile, Chevron U.S.A., which operates an oil-and-gas refinery operation in Richmond, was less gushing in its embrace of the new drilling timetables in the BOEM report. It appears Chevron is not interested in Central or Northern California. In its comments to the BOEM, the company did say the federal government "should move expeditiously to open unavailable submerged lands with believed resource potential for exploration and development."

But Chevron also provided a ranking to the BOEM of its most desirable areas for exploration and development, and left Central and Northern California off the list. Its first three are regions of the Gulf of Mexico. The next three are regions of the Atlantic Ocean, and "the Southern California Planning area was ranked seventh." The company did not comment on or mention drilling in Central and Northern California in the BOEM report—or in a follow-up email sent in response to questions about its views on oil-exploration in offshore California waters.

"Chevron encourages expansion of domestic and global energy production, including development of energy resources on federal lands onshore and offshore," says Veronica Flores-Paniagua, a spokeswoman for Chevron North America. "Our U.S. offshore priorities are continued exploration in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater, and to better understand the potential of the Atlantic waters off the East Coast."

As it set out to reopen offshore drilling, the BOEM also heard from Florida's Department of State and other of its agencies engaged in wildlife conservation. NASA also chimed in with concerns about offshore rigs' affecting future space missions. Florida is led by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who supported Donald Trump for president in 2016, as did the state as a whole. The president spends significant time in Florida, playing golf at the oceanfront Mar-a-Lago.

Zinke's Florida flip-flop, says Monsell, "clearly shows the total incompetence of this administration. One day it's in the plan and a few days later it's out? That's not at all how the process is supposed to work."

She notes that the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, enacted in 1953, "requires the administration to consider several specific factors in developing an offshore oil and gas leasing plan in light of national energy needs and the risks of offshore drilling."

"Helping Republicans to win elections," she adds, "certainly isn't one of those factors."

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