Drill Now, Stop Later Proposal Torched
The State Lands Commission scuttled a proposed compromise that would have brought new oil drilling to the Santa Barbara coast for the first time in California since 1969, in what is seemingly a victory for environmental and coastal protection advocates. However, some are arguing that the proposal, which would have mandated closure of 4 additional oil platforms off the coast within 13 years, should have gone through.
But a parade of local officials, residents and environmental activists insisted the plan would have advanced efforts to protect the coast by eventually closing four of the region's 20 platforms.
"For the first time in history, the public and the state will be able to shut down existing oil production," argued Linda Krop, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center and one of the people behind the proposal. "Without this project, they'll continue indefinitely -- perhaps another 40 years." [...]
Nineteen of the 20 platforms that dot the ocean off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are in federal waters. Shuttering four of them, says Krop of the Environmental Defense Center, would make it difficult for the federal government to lease underwater tracts accessible from those platforms.
And with closure of the two processing plants, the prospect would have been more unlikely, she said.
Read the whole article. There was a significant green alliance in favor of this drilling-for-closure exchange. I tend to agree with the Lands Commission that the proposal for closure wasn't completely enforceable, but then, that's their job to write the law with some enforcement, isn't it? (I guess their concern is that these are federal waters and the state would be limited to enforce end-dates.) I also understand John Garamendi's stated rationale, that approving one lease would set off a parade of oil companies coming to sully the coast, but off course those are approved on a case-by-case basis as well.
If we're going to talk seriously about drilling off the coast in the future, there should be at least a couple bright lines - closure deals like this, and the implementation of an oil severance tax so that we're not the only state in the country that doesn't charge a fee to industry for taking our natural resources out of the ground.
It's an interesting debate - legislators are split, with coastal Assemblymembers opposing but the locals in Santa Barbara in favor, and even Lois Capps thinks it's a worthwhile deal. Endless oil and gas concerns off the coast ought to be dealt with, it's a good question to ask whether this is the right way.