House to mull oil drilling off California’s coast

The House is expected to vote tomorrow on a bill that could re-open oil drilling off California’s coast.

H.R. 1231, the “Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act,” would do just that, requiring the Interior Department to offer leases in every area with significant oil deposits three miles off the coast.

The California State Lands Commission – consisting of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Controller John Chiang and state Finance Director Ana Matosantos – passed a resolution April 28 opposing this bill, and Newsom wrote to Congressional leaders today urging that it be voted down.

Newsom wrote that House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., “intends to mandate oil and gas drilling off all U.S. coasts and weaken the system for reviewing offshore drilling – even after last year’s disaster in the Gulf.”

“Healthy coasts and oceans are a critical priority for California, yet these bills counter California’s short and long term environmental goals, Newsom wrote. “California’s state and local governments, businesses, and civil society are all devoted to managing, protecting, and restoring our marine environment for the benefit of current and future generations. These bills would undermine the state’s efforts to keep our ocean clean and protect fisheries, marine life and key habitats.

Newsom said Hastings’ “drill-at-all-costs” mentality would actually weaken existing oversight, and contradicts the renewable energy policies the nation should be pursuing.

“It is imperative that the United States does not fall further behind in the development of efficient renewable power,” he said, citing his tenure as San Francisco’s mayor. “In my two terms elected, we voted to reach a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020 and are well on our way towards it. These goals can and should be implemented at a wider scale without having to resort to mandated oil drilling. I challenge our government to mandate stricter renewable standards, and challenge our engineers to develop carbon zero technology.”

The House last week passed Hastings’ H.R. 1230, the “Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act,” on a 266-149 vote; that bill dealt with four specific oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off Virginia’s coast.

Today, the House grappled with amendments to Hastings’ H.R. 1229, which would give the Interior Department a 30-day window in which to decide on Gulf of Mexico drilling applications. Among those amendments was one by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, which would’ve required the Interior Secretary, when reviewing drilling permits, to consult with an independent drilling safety organization not affiliated with the oil industry trade association; his amendment was defeated on a 169-240 vote.

None of these bills are likely to fare well in the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate, which was abuzz today with talk of ending tax subsidies for oil companies.

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.

  • Rafael Ochoa

    We need to STOP BLEEDING the Earth, NOW!!!
    Solar,Hydro and Electric energies for our future.

  • Denise O’Driscoll


  • Susan Harnisch

    We urge you not to take a chance on destroying the coast with oil rigs. It is just a matter of time before a tsunami or horrific storm causes a leak, not to mention one caused at the rig or in the pipeline. It is not worth the cost to local fishermen and residents as well as the sea animals. Stop ocean drilling and use other methods.

  • Liberal Roman

    That sound you hear is Rafael, Denise and Susan packing the bags of more companies and kicking them out of California. That’s fine. the Great Plain states and Texas are more than willing to greet more companies and more jobs to their states.

    Oh, and Susan, the “use other methods” that you are talking about is also banned by California. California actually sits on some of the biggest oil deposits in the country. Almost, as comparable to Texas. There is no reason that we shouldn’t be having the same boom as Texas and the Great Plain states are enjoying. The one reason is that even on land, decades old, safe drilling methods are also banned by California. They are not banned explicitly, but with all the land restrictions, they are all essentially banned.

    Please people. I am not a crazy Tea Partier. I am just someone who understands that you can’t just wish or create by fiat new jobs and new companies and economic growth. They have to happen naturally. And if you constantly stand in their way, like California does, your reward is a 12.5% unemployment rate. Do you realize that there are lawyers who drive around California right now and sue companies for not complying with ADA regulations? Regulations that are impossible to comply with even if you wanted to.

    California. You reap the what you sow. Enjoy!