California Officials Say No to New Offshore Drilling

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones Newswires), Apr. 17, 2009

California officials expressed unanimous opposition Thursday to new offshore oil and gas drilling in a meeting U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held to gauge public sentiment on the issue.

Opening the California coast to drilling for oil and natural gas would be an environmental and economic disaster for the state, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The most populous U.S. state relies on tourism, recreation and other coastal industries tied to ocean resources for $23 billion a year in revenue and 390,000 jobs, she said. The U.S. should focus on expanded development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, she said, echoing comments made by dozens of state and local officials.

"Raising fuel economy standards is a far better way to go with far better results ... than drilling in pristine areas off our coast," said Boxer, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The meeting is the last of four convened by the White House to hear from the public on whether the government should expand oil and gas production in federal waters on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Unlike previous meetings in Atlantic City, N.J., and other cities, the meeting in San Francisco, which attracted a few hundred local officials and environmental groups, was surprisingly peaceful and calm. But the message from nearly all who spoke was clear: no new drilling and more renewable energy.

"We want to end opportunities for oil leasing off our coast," said Karin Quimby, a representative of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, an area that currently has offshore oil drilling. She added that a "devastating oil spill" off the Santa Barbara coast in 1969 spurred a 40-year fight by the county to end offshore drilling.

Salazar said three areas are set to be put up for lease off the Pacific Coastbetween 2012 and 2015.The department is reconsidering a Bush administration decision that called for the new lease sales.

While he wouldn't say whether, where or to what extent the administration would open up federal waters to new drilling, Salazar said a decision likely will be made this year and will be part of a larger comprehensive energy plan.

"What we need to do is have a long-term framework in place" that focuses on "national security, environmental security and economic opportunity," Salazar said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. He added that such a plan may not necessarily be politically popular and that it shouldn't be made in response to previously high oil prices.

While Californians and other West Coast officials are opposed to offshore drilling, the issue is much more politically palatable in the states along the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the bulk of the nation's oil and gas drilling currently takes place. A 2006 government survey estimated that the U.S. Gulf also has about two thirds of untapped offshore oil and gas reserves. The Pacific coast has a little more than 10% of undiscovered reserves, the study estimated.

Oil industry representatives said the U.S. should tap all available resources to shore up domestic oil supplies to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

"There are 10 billion barrels of oil off the California coast," said Joe Sparano, president of the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento. "If we can produce those and bring them to market that would allow us to replace California imports for 35 years."

But the outlook for new coastal drilling in California is dim. Most officials, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, strongly oppose it.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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R.G. | Apr. 21, 2009
Barbara Boxer Needs to get out of her (BOX) and face reality. So does Ken Salazar. The state of California needs the Revenue. So Drill Drill Drill. What about the four man made islands in Longbeach Ca. Thums Islands? How many years and no problems.

J.B. | Apr. 21, 2009
I agree with most. They should quit freeloading off of other states and do their part. But I guess they are special like the Hollywood types. You nor I owe anything to California. Today's drilling technology is so advanced that an oil spill in highly, highly unlikely.

Pete A | Apr. 20, 2009
I simply do not understand how a state that is so badly off financially can turn up their collective noses at an opportunity like this. Can you say "more jobs"? How about "less taxes"? Never mind the ethical consideration of putting the memory of a forty year old disaster ahead of helping the rest of us non-Californians in our presidentially mandated effort to free us from foreign oil dependency. 10 BILLION BBLS? Gimme a break. These people really are living in the sixties.

Frank B | Apr. 20, 2009
I like the idea of California paying an "import fee" for all petroleum products imported into the state. I would also expand this to other forms of energy. California lives in a dream world. They believe they do not need to expand their electrical power plant capacity and import power from other states. In essence, they take the power without incurring any of the costs. It only seems fair that California pay the price.

Art Vandeley | Apr. 20, 2009
"but won't apply it due to their collusive relationship with the oil industry." Oliver, please provide a link with PROOF of this statement. I've heard this before, but it was never followed up with evidence.

Frank has it 100% right. Let CA try to survive without products from the oil & gas industry.

Alan Piechocki | Apr. 20, 2009
There is an easy way to persuade the anti-offshore drilling advocates that drilling is advisable. Make every barrel of petroleum product imported into California and other non-offshore advocated states, taxed and the proceeds divided up amongst the states that have expanded their offshore drilling activities. This would provide a boom to those states willing to step up and help the petroleum import problem and make those opposed develop "alternative energy sources". It would be a win-win solution.

JAMESL7 | Apr. 19, 2009
A government survey is like government monitoring of the sub prime industry which is destroying our economy and forcing a bail out which we can not finance. We need to act now to have some fossil fuels for Californians so we do not face the high prices experienced when Enron over priced and destroyed us through high contract prices.

Our short term memories will further add to under employment and a declining economy in California thru our own misunderstanding. The money we make as a state can be taxed to provide solar, wind turbine, and CNG power generators and cars.

Randy Burford | Apr. 18, 2009
That's why I call California "LaLa" land. Nothing but idiots in the political scene. Can you say "Nancy Pelosi"?? ENOUGH SAID!

Joe White | Apr. 17, 2009
Take back all that money that we gave them and make California be dependent on something other than gas. They make money on tourism; well how are people going to get there? Wake up...

Oliver Klonaris | Apr. 17, 2009
We must abide by California's public opinion, which clearly prefers the renewable energy option.

The vehicle manufacturers should be mandated by Washington to improve vehicle efficiency.....WITHOUT government handouts....there's no doubt they DO have the technology, but won't apply it due to their collusive relationship with the oil industry.

Frank Donovan | Apr. 17, 2009
They refuse to drill, but have the audacity to reach out their "freeloading" hands for all the "Cha Ching" the Federal Government will give them! We need to stop supplying California with petroleum products and make them produce it for themselves.


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