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Santa Barbara, CA, Jan. 4, 2018 – Today, in a move strongly opposed by the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) released the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Draft Proposed Plan, which schedules lease sales along the California coast, including the Santa Barbara Channel. This is the first time the federal government has opened the California coast to new lease sales since 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president. This decision puts the coastal resources of California at risk of future oil spills and the damaging impacts of climate change.
In August 2017, EDC stated our opposition to a leasing plan that would include new oil and gas lease sales offshore California, including the Santa Barbara Channel and South Central Coast. Exclusion of the Pacific Region would be consistent with several federal and state actions taken to protect this ecologically sensitive area. The region includes ecological areas known for their global significance.
“This plan has the potential to put the precious marine resources of the Santa Barbara Channel at risk of dangerous oil development. After more than 30 years without any new offshore oil and gas leases, this is an irresponsible move that we adamantly oppose and will face head on,” stated Linda Krop, Chief Counsel at EDC. “The catastrophic 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, and the more recent 2015 Refugio Oil Spill, confirm that there is no way to drill for new oil without causing devastating impacts to our coastal environment, tourism and recreation, and economy.”
The California Current upwelling system is one of the top five most biodiverse and rich marine ecosystems in the world, providing a high level of unparalleled productivity that supports fisheries, tourism, and livelihoods. Most notably, the Santa Barbara Channel includes the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Park, as well as federal and state Marine Protected Areas. This area is also an important migratory route and feeding area for endangered blue, humpback, and fin whales, which are vulnerable to oil and gas drilling activities, ship strikes, seismic surveys, and oil spills.
The Santa Barbara community recalls all too well the catastrophic impacts oil had to our coastline after the 1969 blowout from Platform A, and the recent Refugio Oil Spill on the Gaviota Coast in 2015. For the past 40 years, EDC has worked in the public interest, protecting our coastal and marine environments. EDC and our partners have retired 40 offshore oil leases, prevented three separate attempts to import Liquefied Natural Gas through our coastline, and served as the lead organization fighting against risky practices such as fracking and acidizing from offshore platforms. We have continuously won the battle against irresponsible fossil fuel projects and have done so with the support of the people of California and our state leaders. This Draft Proposed Plan is in direct opposition of the needs and wishes of those who live along the coast and depend directly on California’s unparalleled coastal and marine resources. Today, with the administration’s proposal for new offshore oil drilling, EDC will stand strong in our fight to protect our coast and marine environment.
California coastal communities rely heavily on these incredible resources to support our local economies. Annually, over 150 million visitors come to California, which has the largest ocean economy in the United States. Tourism and recreation is the largest sector of the state’s ocean economy, which provides 75% of ocean economy jobs and contributes $17.6 billion toward the state’s GDP (statistic from 2012). California’s commercial and recreational fisheries are also incredibly valuable, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The administration’s plan for new offshore oil and gas development puts these valuable industries at risk, as seen when the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill closed fishing grounds and damaged the region’s tourism businesses.
The State of California has taken significant steps to protect its coast and marine environment from the negative impacts of offshore oil and gas development. In 1994, the state legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibits the state from entering into any new leases within state tidelands. In 2014, in response to the proposed 2017-2024 Leasing Program, the Governor of California joined the Governors of Oregon and Washington in opposing federal offshore oil and gas leasing. In 2016, the California State Lands Commission passed a resolution stating its strong support for the federal government’s current ban on new drilling in federal waters offshore. Many California cities have since joined in passing similar resolutions in opposition to new offshore drilling (e.g. Santa Barbara, Goleta). In 2017, the California Senate passed, on a bipartisan vote, a resolution opposing new oil or gas drilling in federal waters offshore California. The people of the central coast and California have made it very clear that it is time to focus on cleaner and safer renewable energy sources rather than dangerous and irresponsible fuels of the past.
The Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community based organizations to advance environmental protection. Program areas include climate and energy, and protecting clean water, the Santa Barbara Channel, and open space and wildlife. Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org