Reps. Levin, Peters Urge Congress To Say No Drilling Off California Coast
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / September 5, 2019
Two Southern California Congressman are rallying support to block new offshore oil drilling along the state’s coast saying this is not the time for new offshore oil platforms.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Democrats who run California and are running for president agree that the fight, the climate crisis, we need to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible. But a proposal for robust offshore oil and gas drilling and all federal waters makes a mockery of that clean energy goal. Leaders in California and all along the west coast are fighting back. Joining me to discuss that battle as KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Eric, welcome. My pleasure. Well, you covered a press conference yesterday focused on the resistance to the Trump administration's push for offshore drilling. Who was there? Well, a congressman, Mike Levin and Scott Peters were both there. And what they were trying to do is highlight, uh, their opposition to a Trump administration plan that was put forward last year that would basically reopen a lot of the, uh, areas off the coast of the United States to offshore oil drilling. Uh, they both think this is not a very good idea and they're looking around for ways that they can, uh, move legislation on Capitol Hill, uh, to keep it from happening.
Speaker 1: 01:04 And what they've come up with is, uh, co-sponsoring a bill that's been put forward by a member of the house from South Carolina, conservative Republican Law Maker, uh, in a state that was, uh, overwhelmingly voting for Trump in the last election. Uh, but that measure would put a permanent ban in place on offshore drilling along all us coastal waters. And they're hopeful that this bipartisan, uh, Bill, uh, actually gets up for a House vote soon and then gets consideration in the Senate. And, uh, we mentioned that congressman Lebanon was their Congressman Peters, both Democrats, of course, from this area. What were the main points made, uh, by these folks specifically in terms of, of the dangers facing the potential for catastrophe out there? Well, I think what they're trying to bring up is the fact that, uh, you know, California's coastal economy is a $23 billion economy. It's, there are hunt more than a hundred thousand jobs tied to that economy. And our lifeblood here in southern California is linked to a good clean environment along the coast. And offshore drilling kind of endangers that. Uh, and this was a point that, uh, congressman Scott Peters pointed out, uh, very specifically
Speaker 2: 02:14 last year, president Trump, uh, his department of Interior proposed to allow oil and gas drilling right here off California's coast. Think about that. The federal agency tasked with protecting our ne our country's natural resources, has proposed the rollback of critical environmental protections designed to keep oil from filing our oceans, which could lead to devastating effects for our environment and for our economy. 50 years ago in 1969, an oil rig off the Santa Barbara coast experienced the blowout resulted in oil slick 35 miles long. At that time, it was the largest oil spill in history. And to this day, it remains the largest spill to occur in the state of California. Crews were literally throwing hay bales into the ocean to try to soak up the oil that killed thousands of marine animals, caused a suspension of commercial fishing, and led to a huge drop in tourism, uh, as you might expect in California's coastal communities.
Speaker 1: 03:17 A congressman, Peter said, uh, that's why he wants to oppose the offshore drilling. Uh, because San Diego's economy can't absorb that kind of an impact, a negative impact from an oil spill. It puts more than an $8 billion economy in peril if something were to happen. And what specifically is the Trump administration's proposal? This is over several years and they're talking about really opening up old big area to a lot of drilling. A, they want to open up the, uh, the ability for the federal government to sell these oil leases off the coast. And of course, if you sell the oil lease to a developer, an oil, an oil company, they want to be able to put a rig out there to begin extracting the oil. And they want to do that all along the coast of the United States. Although it's probably worth noting that, uh, the state of Florida with the Republican governor, conservative governor, I did get an exemption from, from this policy, but California democratic state did not get that exemption. And here in the, along the west coast here in California. How much oil are we really talking about? Yeah, it's a not considered to be a, a huge, immense amount of oil. We talked to Michael Torty, who's with a Surfrider foundation's, a San Diego chapter, and he said, you know, the benefits we would get from that are relatively small,
Speaker 2: 04:35 all of this irreversible damage for what, 16 and a half months of oil reserves off the California coast. Why bother? Was such a risk. Images of oil, marine life, soiled coastlines, a massive oil slicks have been permanently etched into our hearts and minds over the years as ecological tragedies. American needs to conserve energy, protect our natural resources, and look for innovative ways to build a sustainable energy portfolio.
Speaker 1: 05:03 And of course, he weighs this against the potential economic impact from the oil industry that, you know, could add $2 billion to the, to the California economy. Uh, but the argument there is, is that's far outweighed by the impact on California's coastal economy, which is worth around $23 billion and a, the position of the Governor Gavin Newsome. Uh, when it comes to oil and Glen, I guess, platforms in the Pacific. Uh, he has not really said much about it. He's, he's been a little bit coy on this position, and it's not something that he's talked about publicly. So we'll see if he weighs in on this as this thing moves further along, especially with this federal legislation she had been talking about. Well, I've been talking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Thanks Eric. My pleasure.