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Gov. Jerry Brown Already Expanded Offshore Oil Drilling in State Waters

California Governor Jerry Brown today joined Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee in condemning Trump’s plan to expand oil and gas drilling in federal waters – at the same time that California regulators under Brown have expanded offshore oil drilling by 17 percent in state waters.

“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike,” the governors proclaimed in a joint statement.

“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science,” they said.

“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action,” they concluded.

Brown also issued a personal statement blasting Trump, pledging “resistance” to Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling.

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He’s wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle,” Brown claimed.

Those are nice words condemning Trump’s plan to open new offshore oil drilling leases on both coasts. However, what the Governor’s Office press release and most media neglected to mention is that Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved permits for 238 new offshore wells between 2012 and 2016 in existing leases within three nautical miles of shore, according to Liza Tucker, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog.

Consumer advocates pointed out the hyprocrisy of Brown blasting Trump for expanding offshore drilling in federal waters while the Governor has already expanded offshore drilling in state waters. Brown, who portrays himself as a “climate leader” in frequent appearances at climate conferences across the globe, in fact promotes the expansion of fracking, Big Oil-supported cap-and-trade policies, the irrigation of crops with oil wastewater, the exemption of Big Oil from the Safe Drinking Water Act in Kern County oilfields and the environmentally destruction Delta Tunnels project.

“How do you square this excellent statement by Governor Brown with the actions of Brown’s regulators who have expanded offshore oil drilling in state waters?” asked Tucker.

In late 2016, Brown asked former President Barack Obama to permanently ban any new oil and gas leasing in federal waters off of California’s coast to match California’s long-standing ban on new drilling in state waters.

“It is time for Governor Brown to draw a bright green line between California and the Trump Administration by keeping oil in the ground, which is the only way to avoid the worst effects of global warming,” Tucker said.

“We urge the Governor to demonstrate his leadership by making his actions match his rhetoric on the need to stop burning fossil fuels to avoid an existential threat. Brown’s record on oil drilling offshore and on shore is one of expansion. That is no longer acceptable. Brown should ban all drilling activity offshore, cut off any planned new oil and gas drilling on shore, and ban fracking outright,” Tucker said.

According to Department of Conservation data provided last year, offshore oil production continues in existing state leases up to three nautical miles offshore in 1,366 active wells.

“New drilling permits were issued for 238 wells since 2012, up 17 percent, for existing leases in waters off of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, according to analysis by the nonprofit FracTracker Alliance. Roughly 171 of them were active as of a year ago,” noted Tucker.

“Onshore, the number of active oil and gas wells has jumped 23 percent from 53,825 in 2009, the year before Brown was elected Governor, to 66,516 onshore wells at the end of 2016, according to Department of Conservation data. On Brown’s watch, the number of wells drilled and completed in 2014 jumped by 67 percent over 2011 to 6,896 from 4,636, according to the Department of Conservation,” she pointed out.

The oil industry has been pleased with Brown’s expansion of offshore drilling in state waters – and was equally pleased with the Trump administration plan to expand offshore drilling in federal waters.

“Our members produce energy in the most environmentally safe and sound way under the most stringent regulatory environment in the world,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, in a statement. “This announcement could help California increase our domestic energy production.”

The reason for the expansion of offshore and onshore oil drilling, including fracking, under the Brown administration is the enormous power that WSPA and the oil industry wields over the Governor’s Office, the Legislature and the states’s regulatory agencies. Big Oil is the single largest corporate lobby in Sacramento — and dominates spending on lobbying every legislative session. Every bill opposed by the oil industry with the exception of one has failed to pass out of the Legislature over the past three years, due to the gusher of Big Oil lobbying money.

The oil industry spent more on lobbying in California, $16,360,618, in the first six months of 2017, than was spent by the industry in all of 2016, $16.0 million. This translates to an average of $2.7 million per month – $90,000 per day – since Jan. 1, 2017, according to a report compiled and written by William Barrett of the Lung Association in California. Over the past ten years, oil lobbying in California has topped $150 million.

Chevron ranks #1 among all lobbyist spenders in the current session with $7.1 million spent in first six months of 2017, compared to $3 million total in 2016. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), normally the largest spender of all lobbying organizations, was the 2nd overall spender in the first two quarters of 2017 with $3.9 million spent.

The California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million on lobbying over the two-year period. Big Oil spending last session amounted to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day.

The $36.1 million surpassed the $34 million spent in the prior session, according to an earlier American Lung Association report.

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Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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