Del Mar is taking a stand against President Donald Trump’s efforts to loosen restrictions on offshore drilling and energy exploration in federal waters — the first city south of Los Angeles County to do so.
The Del Mar City Council unanimously agreed on Oct. 16 to call on California’s congressional delegation to join the city in making clear that expanded offshore drilling poses too great a threat to the state’s $44.8 billion ocean economy.
The move puts Del Mar alongside 10 other California cities opposed to Trump’s executive order that aims to undo a host of protections Barack Obama put in place shortly before leaving office. Under Trump’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy — signed in April amid a flurry of executive orders in the run-up to his 100th day in office — federal waters could reopen to offshore drilling for the first time in decades, primarily by changing the process for allowing the sale of drilling leases and by allowing energy exploration in marine sanctuaries.
No new drilling leases have been approved in Pacific federal waters since 1984 or in California-managed waters since the catastrophic Santa Barbara spill of 1969, a disaster that helped give rise to the modern environmental movement.
“Today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs,” Trump said at the April 28 White House signing ceremony. “Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production … This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth. Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless good jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent.”
Trump’s order empowers Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise Obama’s five-year plan dictating offshore drilling rights from 2017 and 2022. The order also opens the door for energy exploration in marine sanctuaries created or expanded in the past 10 years, which includes two sanctuaries off the coast of the Monterey Peninsula.
While the Trump administration has so far focused on the south Atlantic and the Arctic waters of Alaska, the Democratic leaders of Pacific states aren’t sitting idly by. Hours after Trump’s order, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement that redoubled their resolve to resist any drilling expansion.
“We still remember what happened in Santa Barbara in 1969, Port Angeles in 1985, Grays Harbor in 1988 and Coos Bay in 1999. We remember the oil-soaked beaches and wildlife and the devastating economic impacts to local communities and the fishing industry,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in the statement with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Now is not the time to turn back the clock. We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of Big Oil above our communities and treasured coastline.”
On the Atlantic Coast, where the specter of offshore drilling surfaced in 2013 after Obama opened the possibility for the first time in decades, 138 municipalities — more than 90 percent of the coastline —have come out against offshore drilling.
Oceana, an international conservation group, has brought that fight out west as it leads the push to get California cities on board. In Del Mar, Oceana met with Councilman Dwight Worden and Councilwoman Ellie Haviland, who then called on the rest of the city council to make clear that Trump’s strategy doesn’t jibe with California’s direction on alternative energy and environmental stewardship.
“They do a better job of managing wells and resources than they used to; I’ll concede there’s some truth to that,” Worden said. “But if you look at their safety record, it’s still terrible. You have all these rail accidents with cars going up in flames, the Deepwater Horizon fire in the Gulf, spills and leakage all over. Do we really want to risk desecrating our natural cathedrals just to turn the lights on for an extra five minutes?”
In addition to Del Mar, the city councils of Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Malibu, San Luis Obispo, Cayucos, Goleta, Arcata, Monterey and Ojai have come out against expanded drilling. More cities are expected to follow suit, beginning with Laguna Beach on Nov. 7.
Oceana wants to get as many cities as possible on board by January, when the public comment period is expected to open on possibly dramatic changes to the review process for the five-year plan on offshore drilling leases.
“We hope to make that an entire coast, a wall of opposition,” said Brady Bradshaw, Oceana’s campaign organizer in Southern California.