California Steps Forward to Protect Our Coastline While the Nation Falls Back
Press Release Date: June 22, 2010
Location: Sacramento, CA
The dichotomy of two decisions made today on the future of new oil and gas drilling exemplify how the West Coast states are taking steps forward to prevent another Deepwater Horizon tragedy while the nation falls backward. As the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water passed a resolution today supporting a ban on new oil and gas drilling off the Pacific Coast, a federal judge put a halt to President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The resolution passed the Assembly in 2009.
California Assembly Joint Resolution 3 (Nava, D-Santa Barbara), resolves that the California Legislature opposes any proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling off the Pacific Coast and supports legislation currently pending in the United States Congress (S. 3358 and H.R. 5213) that would protect the Pacific Coast from any new offshore oil drilling. Four months ago the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 3613, which prohibits leasing for purposes of exploration, development or production of oil, gas or sulfur in Oregon’s territorial sea. Oceana has provided support for both state bills and has been garnering public support to protect our West Coast. At an Oceans Day Celebration held in San Francisco earlier this month Oceana gathered hundreds of signatures from attendees in only a few hours, a testament to the concerns of Californians to protect our coastal and marine resources and the services they provide.
Today’s federal court ruling in favor of the industry plaintiffs is another indication that the federal system must be reformed in light of the devastating disaster of the Deepwater Horizon spill that continues to impact local marine life, fishing industries, businesses, communities and families as upwards of 50,000 gallons of oil continue to spew into the Gulf daily. Despite the Department of the Interior’s efforts to implement precautions and safety standards, the court’s ruling would not allow a precautionary approach to an industry whose operations are inherently risky to the health of our environment. Disputing the ruling, Oceana Pacific Counsel Whit Sheard stated, “The government must have the ability to stop high risk activities when presented with new evidence that there is potential for catastrophic damage such as that being felt by Gulf communities and ecosystems. If the law currently does not allow for that balance, we must change the law.”
Oceana is working to put in place a comprehensive conservation and energy plan in the Pacific, without which offshore drilling should not occur. We need to know if offshore drilling can be conducted without harming the health of the ocean ecosystem and if so, then determine when, where, and how such activities would be conducted. The Gulf spill clearly shows us we cannot yet meet this metric.