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North County mayors, supervisors speak against offshore oil drilling

Opening California’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas exploration as proposed by the Trump administration would be disastrous for this region, North County mayors and county supervisors said in a news conference Monday, April 15.

“The results of a spill would be devastating to our coast. We already know from history what can happen,” said District 3 County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, referring to the explosion and sinking in 2010 of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Nineteen years later that region still hasn’t recovered,” said Gaspar, a former Encinitas mayor. “We cannot afford to take that kind of risk.”

Joining Gaspar in the conference at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas were the city’s mayor, Catherine Blakespear; Del Mar Mayor David Druker; Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss; San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones; and District 5 County Supervisor Jim Desmond, the former mayor of San Marcos.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Oceana organized the gathering as part of its effort to galvanize opposition to a federal government proposal that would open up nearly all U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling.

In January 2018, the Department of Interior released the draft 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Leasing Program. The program would determine when and where the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can offer leases to the petroleum industry.

If adopted, the program would overturn the Obama administration’s 2017-2022 program that prohibited new offshore leasing and drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Ocean Energy Management Bureau is in the process of analyzing comments received from the public earlier this year on the draft proposal.

Later this year, the bureau respond to the comments with a revised program, subject to a 90-day public comment period.

Then, the bureau will compile a final proposed program, which will undergo a 60-day review by Congress, followed by possible approval.

Explore Offshore, a nonprofit coalition sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, is promoting support for the program, based on the organization’s position that more production is needed for national energy dependence and affordability.

Oceana spokesman Brady Bradshaw, an Encinitas resident who led Monday’s proceeding, said U.S. Representative Mike Levin has co-sponsored two Congressional bills aimed at blocking drilling — the West Coast Ocean Protection Act (H.R. 310) and the California Clean Coast Act (H.R. 279).

Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, is a first-term Congressman representing the 49th District, which encompasses most of coastal North County.

San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott, who is campaigning as the Republican opponent to Levin in the 2020 election, appeared at Monday’s conference to show nonpartisan solidarity with the North County leaders in their opposition to the administration’s plan.

They contend oil and gas drilling on the coast will lead to pollution, endanger marine life and the coastal environment, and harm the coastal economy.

“Opening up our coast to offshore drilling is wrong in so many ways — encouraging the further use of fossil fuels and exposing our delicate shoreline and marine environment to the risk of oil spills and pollution,” Blakespear said.

“We will do absolutely everything in our power to stop it,” she told reporters at the conference.

In his remarks, Druker recalled the repulsion he and others experienced 50 years ago during the massive Santa Barbara oil spill that turned seawater and beaches black with oil.

“After that spill, my assumption was there would be no more drilling off the shores of Southern California,” Druker said. “This is something that should never happen again off the coast of California.”

Desmond, the former mayor of San Marcos, added that offshore drilling could interfere with military operations staged from area bases and endanger service personnel. The Marine Corps frequently practices amphibious landings on beachheads at Camp Pendleton.

A handful of residents attended the conference, including longtime Encinitas residents Madge and Arturo Torres.

“It’s our coastline and we can’t lose it,” Madge Torres said. “It is irreplaceable and we have to protect it, because if we don’t protect it now for our children, the damage will be irreversible.”

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