SC news

Trump Proves SLO Supervisors Clueless on Offshore Drilling

By Andrew Christie, Chapter Director

If you have not yet read “Who’s Cashing in on California Oil Drilling?,” grab a copy of the May 19 issue of Newsweek, or go here.

Staff writer Gogo Lidz provides an epic historical sweep in a very few pages that also trace the tightly interconnected network of oil company interests, big money players and Republican officials vectoring in on future oil production of the Central Coast.

Key quote:

“On April 25 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that ‘nothing is off the table’—even the Pacific. He told guests at a private event for the Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara that offshore drilling in the federal waters off California would soon increase.”

The article is recommended reading for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors — particularly Debbie Arnold, Lynn Compton and John Peschong, who last February formally voted in opposition to designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. In doing so, the board majority voiced their belief that because a thirty-year-old county ordinance would somewhat complicates the plans of oil companies who may wish to bring offshore oil ashore, we have all the protection we need from the prospect of future drilling and spills. It is impossible to read the Newsweek article about the vast sums of money coming to bear on new oil lease activity off our coast — in conjunction with Donald Trump’s April 28 Executive Order aimed at rescinding even the current, temporary federal protections from new drilling in Pacific Coastal waters — without conjuring a mental image of our supervisors as children with a pea-shooter going into battle against an armored division. (Not included in this mental image would be any supervisors who merely mouthed the words for public consumption, saying that our little ordinance will protect us while knowing full well that it won’t.)

While there’s no reason to doubt that Ms. Lidz got her numbers and her history right, the one thing she gets wrong makes for painful reading: “The Koch brothers co-own active oil rigs north of Santa Barbara in an area that Obama designated a national marine sanctuary for the native Chumash tribe.”

That would have been nice. But the previous president did not actually do that, and the current president’s executive order zeroes in on precisely the protective entity that three of our county supervisors confidently proclaimed we don’t need, making it clear that we absolutely do:

The Secretary of Commerce shall, unless expressly required otherwise, refrain from designating or expanding any National Marine Sanctuary…unless the sanctuary designation or expansion proposal includes a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential within the designated area…and the potential impact the proposed designation or expansion will have on the development of those resources.

And for good measure:

The Secretary of Commerce…shall conduct a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries, and of all designations and expansions of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906…designated or expanded within the 10-year period prior to the date of this order.

One might inquire of Supervisors Compton, Arnold and Peschong: What a difference three months makes, eh folks? You may not have thought a marine sanctuary was necessary to protect our coast from the drills, but the Trump administration seems to know that marine sanctuaries are the strongest bastion against offshore oil development. And so do all the local citizens who told you so last January.

The executive order has one more piece of irony on tap for SLO Coast residents. Among all the other prospective goodies that Trump offers up to Big Oil – including rescinded safety and air quality regulations — there is this:

The Secretary of Commerce shall review NOAA’s Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55 of July 2016 (Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing)…and, after consultation with the appropriate Federal agencies, take all steps permitted by law to rescind or revise that guidance, if appropriate.

That one’s about offshore seismic surveys, the prospect of towing air guns through the water emitting continuous blasts of sound at circa 250 decibels for days or weeks in order to map the geology of the sea floor, wreaking havoc on fish and other marine wildlife. Let the record show that local commercial fishermen, the same people who have been the most vocal in their distress at the prospect of a national marine sanctuary coming into being off the Central Coast and who have been fighting tooth and nail against that prospect for years, had a collective near-death experience five years ago when PG&E almost got a permit to do the very thing for which Trump’s order now paves the way. (And, needless to say, along with selling new oil leases, seismic surveys to find new areas to lease for oil extraction are the other thing you cannot do in a national marine sanctuary.)

If not for the intransigent opposition, we would have a Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary by now. And in the harsh light of the new political day, the truth is revealed: We always needed it. And now we really, really do.

What can you do now? Keep NOAA informed as to what the residents of the Central Coast want. Download and print out Trump’s executive order on offshore energy development and pull it out to short-circuit any future arguments you may get into about just how critical marine sanctuaries are in heading off the oil rigs. And right now, sign and send this petition in response to the executive order.

This will not stand. We will get through to the other side of this, and then we will win.

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