Drilling Off California’s Coast – A Supremely Bad Idea

The Trump Administration has proposed opening up nearly all our nation’s offshore waters, including off our California shores, to drilling. This Jan. 4, 2018 proposal is a slap in the face to anyone who wants to safeguard this planet we call our home. And we must act now to oppose it.

Damage from Oil Spills

The risks of offshore drilling are undeniable, and most Californians oppose new drilling. Not least among these risks are oil spills which occur during various stages of oil production. Small daily leaks from drilling operations harm the marine ecosystem. A map of Marine life along the Pacific Coast illustrates some of the species potentially harmed by oil spills. And then there’s the very real potential for catastrophic spills.

Most of us will remember the devastating explosion in 2010 at a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico which killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. That explosion resulted in an almost three-month-long oil spill, affecting wildlife, marine ecosystems and livelihoods and fouling the shore from Texas to Florida.

Closer to home, in May 2015, a ruptured oil pipeline dumped more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil onto the California coast near Santa Barbara, exacting a heavy toll on wildlife. And the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has issued 381 violation notices to offshore oil operations since 2015.

Economic Costs of Oil Spills

Economic costs related to oil spills are formidable. Jonathan Ramseur, a Specialist in Environmental Policy, detailed in the 2017 report Oil Spills: Background and Governance three economic categories related to spills: “cleanup expenses, natural resource damages, and the various economic losses incurred by the affected community or individuals.” The California coastal economy relies on a healthy ocean ecosystem, through tourism, recreation, and fishing. Offshore drilling threatens nearly 600,000 jobs and 42.3 billion in GDP in California.

As a result of the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, billions of dollars were lost as fish withered and tourists vacationed elsewhere. About 800 miles away, in Belize, home to the second largest coral reef system in the world, this raised the national consciousness about the inherent dangers of offshore drilling. And it eventually resulted in a moratorium on all offshore drilling in the country’s marine territory becoming law last year. This made Belize the world’s first country to reject all offshore oil.

Those who say that we need more offshore drilling point to our dependence on oil and gas. The Interior Department estimates that potential oil reserves off CA coast would provide less than 2 years’ supply at current U.S. consumption. And besides, we must wean ourselves off fossil fuel dependence and instead champion renewable energy and energy conservation. Renewable, clean energy technology has expanded and now supports more jobs than coal, oil, and gas.

Must Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground

We’re already seeing devastating effects in California related to climate change. Just think back to the unprecedented 2017 wildfire season which paved the way for catastrophic mudslides earlier this year. We should be doubling down on efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep climate change in check – not opening up new avenues for emissions!

Demonstrating commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, the New Zealand Prime Minister announced a few weeks ago that the country will not grant any new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration. That’s real leadership.

At stake here is a principle that should be obvious to anyone who isn’t victim to the oil and gas industry’s deception: burning fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, contributing to climate change, and worsening consequences already in evidence such as drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, sea level rise, flooding and ocean acidification.

Mounting Opposition

Many of California’s elected officials, businesses, and municipalities have registered opposition to new offshore drilling, including the San Diego City Council and County Board of Supervisors. However, two San Diego congressmen have been on the wrong side of this issue – Darrell Issa (District 49) and Duncan Hunter (District 50). Both voted YES in 2011 on H.R. 1231 a bill to open the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling.

Make your voice heard. Tell your state legislators to support California Senate Bill 834 and California Assembly Bill 1775. These bills would prohibit the State Lands Commission from approving any new construction of oil- and gas-related infrastructure upon tidelands and submerged lands within state waters associated with outer continental shelf leases issued after January 1, 2018.

Be There, Saturday, May 19 — We must take action now on a variety of fronts to oppose offshore drilling. Action is critical to preserving our community’s health, environment, safety and economic well-being.

Besides phone calls to our state legislators, another way we make a difference is to come together en masse to bring the issue to the attention of the general public and the media. So join us for the Hands Across the Sandevent Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mission Beach (by San Fernando Place & Ocean Front Walk) where San Diegans will take a stand against offshore drilling.

The event will feature community representatives speaking to the public, live music, photo petitions, and participants lining up on the beach to spell out “no oil.” This is just one in a nationwide series of events. Hands Across the Sand, founded in 2010, grew into an international movement after the BP oil disaster that year. Eight years later, there’s a rising tide of grassroots activism demanding that we end the expansion of offshore oil drilling.

So RSVP or just show up. And please spread the word on social media! Actions we take today can lead us to a cleaner, healthier, and prosperous future. We must act as the people of Belize did when they saw the dangers of offshore drilling in the aftermath of the 2010 BP spill and reject all offshore drilling.

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press  on May 10th, 2018

About the Author

Karen Hughes, retired RN, lives in University City, and is a SanDiego350 volunteer, stepping up her love of wildlife and the oceans to advocacy and action.



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