Oil spill shapes California’s drilling debate

Democrats are doing their happy dance now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in reaction to the epically disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has withdrawn his support of the proposed Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off California’s coast.

From state Controller John Chiang:

“I am pleased the Governor has withdrawn his support for what would have been the first new oil lease off the coast of California in 40 years.

“As a member of the State Lands Commission who voted against the project last year, I am saddened that it took a tragic and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to remind us how important it is that we continue to protect California’s shores and our multi-billion dollar coastal and port economies.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who chaired the State Lands Commission while serving as lieutenant governor:

“It’s unfortunate it took one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history for Governor Schwarzenegger to come to his senses, but today, friends of California’s coastline can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no more new leases for oil drilling from platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara.

“When I chaired the California State Lands Commission, the independent commission responsible for approving oil leases in California, I made it clear that the risk of permitting new drilling from platforms in California is ecological and economic disaster. The Gulf Coast oil spill – which threatens 40 percent of U.S. wetlands and will cost fishing and tourism industries billions of dollars – proves my point. We don’t want to imagine what a similar spill would do to California’s coast.

“President Obama has proposed a temporary presidential moratorium on new offshore oil drilling, and that’s a good start, but Congress plays an important role as well. Our coast is best protected when both the President and Congress make it clear that new offshore drilling is not an option.

“An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara jumpstarted the modern environmentalist movement 41 years ago, helping to create the Environmental Protection Agency, Earth Day, and ultimately, offshore oil drilling moratoriums that served us well for 26 years. What will they say about our response to the Gulf Coast tragedy?”

Since I wrote Friday about the differing views on this, new information about the spill’s severity has elicited more powerful criticisms of off-shore drilling.

Greenpeace – never a friend to oil interests, of course – put out this map today superimposing a projection of the Deepwater Horizon spill’s extent upon California’s coast, to illustrate the effect a similar spill might have here:

Greenpeace's CA oil spill forecast

And the Center for American Progress – a progressive think-tank with a lot of connections to the Obama Administration – made its case today, too.

“We need to learn from this tragedy,” wrote CAP Senior Fellow and Climate Strategy Director Daniel J. Weiss. “Offshore drilling is a risky way to meet our energy needs. We have only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we use one-quarter of the oil produced annually. It is a dangerous practice that puts American lives and livelihoods at risk while distracting from real solutions that can provide clean energy while creating jobs.”

But House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says domestic drilling still has to be part of the nation’s overall energy plan.

John Boehner“The Obama Administration is right to insist on a full investigation of the events leading up to this tragic, deadly, unacceptable accident and the oil spill that resulted. We must stop the leaking oil, and help the Gulf recover, but we also need to know how it happened, who is responsible, and how we can prevent future incidents. The White House must ensure that BP bears the entire financial burden to clean up this disaster. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up their mess. Also, House Oversight Ranking Member Darrell Issa is asking important questions related to the Administration’s response to this incident and he should get prompt and complete answers.

“At the same time, this tragedy should remind us that America needs a real, comprehensive energy plan, like Republicans’ ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy, which includes more of everything: more clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear power, wind, and solar energy, more alternative fuels, more conservation, and more environmentally-responsible development of America’s energy resources. Our American Energy Act would use the funds generated by expanded American energy production to speed up the development of the next generation of clean-energy alternatives. It would also lower fuel costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and – at a time when Americans are asking, where are the jobs? – it would create more than a million new American jobs.

“Now is not the time for new government-mandated limits on the production of American-made energy, as such limits will only make us more dependent on foreign oil, slow the development of clean-energy alternatives, increase fuel costs, and destroy American jobs. It’s time to get to the bottom of this tragedy, work to ensure it never happens again, and move forward in a responsible manner on an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to lower energy costs, expand the use of clean-energy alternatives, and create American jobs.”

UPDATE @ 4:41 P.M.: More Democratic praise for Schwarzenegger’s move, after the jump…

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“Governor Schwarzenegger made the right decision for California today by finally withdrawing his support for the Tranquillon Ridge project. As he stated, the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico right now clearly and dramatically underscores the danger of off-shore drilling. This was exactly why the Assembly rejected this project when it came before us last year as a part of the Budget Package—and it’s exactly why the business as usual practice of ramming through major policy changes that have nothing to do with the budget in exchange for a few votes from the minority party is the wrong way for California to approve a budget package.”

From Attorney General candidate and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara:

“I am pleased that Governor Schwarzenegger now agrees with me, Florida’s Governor Charlie Christ and, 110 other environmental organizations that the PXP proposal to drill 3 miles off the California coast is a bad idea and not worth the risk. We welcome the Governor’s change of heart.

“Now it’s time for PXP to pack up their tent and abandon their plans to open up the California coast to new, dirty, and dangerous offshore oil drilling.

“California doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Louisiana. It took a week and a half for the Gulf spill to splash onto land. A spill in California Sanctuary Act waters off the Santa Barbara coast would hit land in a few hours. Our $60 billion dollar coastal economy should not be at risk for a dirty and dangerous offshore oil drilling deal. We must not let this happen here.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    The oil spill is the best thing to happen to public transportation since Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez incidents. Expect $5/gal. not just $4/gal gas prices this summer. BP will pay for clean-up and other multinationals will pass along their increased risk to consumers. As a result, persons who have a choice will use more public transit, saving Bay Area transit from the ‘road to ruin.”

  • BP, Hayward, and the MMS are crooks and liars. I don’t believe a single word that comes out of Haywards mouth. They better make this right.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Your grammar and punctuation are unacceptably poor. You should be dismissed from your teaching position.