California To Block New Offshore-Produced Oil


California officials announced early this month that the state would be blocking the transportation of petroleum from new offshore oil rigs, a move intended to counteract a recent call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

According to Reuters, the step is one of the most forceful yet taken by coastal states against the proposed drilling, even though other states have voiced concerns over the fact that the drilling could have a significant negative impact on both tourism and local wildlife.

California Intervention

In a letter sent by the State Lands Commission to the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Feb. 7, the commission urged Bureau program manager Kelly Hammerle to withdraw the draft proposal, citing that the public did not have adequate time to provide input.

“It is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore,” the commission said.

Offshore drilling has been restricted off the coast of California since 1969, after an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Neal Kirby, a spokesperson for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, noted that the industry was largely interested in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, but if California bars oil from traveling through the state, companies would be less likely to pursue offshore leases there.

According to The Mercury News, at least 18 California coastal cities and nine coastal counties have local laws that ban the construction of pipelines, onshore oil terminals and other oil equipment without a public vote. All new oil and gas drilling is also banned from the beach out to three miles offshore, due to a law signed by former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

President Donald J. Trump's administration’s proposal would allow for new drilling in federal waters, which are three to 200 miles offshore.

Florida Exemption

Zinke last month called for the allowance of new offshore oil and gas drilling in all U.S. coastal waters. This would open billions of acres in oceans from the Arctic to the Atlantic to potential drilling.

Governors of states along all coasts expressed their concerns over Zinke’s move, but Zinke recently supported Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s stance on protecting Florida’s coasts, as they drive much of the state's vital tourism industry. At the time, Zinke noted that he was removing the state “from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Since then, according to The New York Times, Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Management, noted that Zinke’s decision was not final. The bureau will be moving forward with the required review of offshore resources, which will include Florida’s. A final decision regarding offshore drilling near the state will be made after the analysis is completed.


Tagged categories: Department of the Interior; Government; NA; North America; Offshore; Oil and Gas; President Trump; Program/Project Management

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