Solana Beach and Encinitas have joined the sweep of coastal towns lining up to oppose President Donald Trump’s efforts to open nearly all federal waters to drilling and energy exploration for the first time in decades.
The city councils of the coastal neighbors passed resolutions on Jan. 24 calling on Congress to block Trump’s plans, the 22nd and 23rd jurisdictions in California to do so. Oceanside, Coronado and Carlsbad are the only coastal cities in San Diego County that have not enacted similar resolutions.
While Trump signaled his intent nine months ago, it was a Jan. 4 announcement from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that set off a wave of outrage from coastal towns and states around the country. Zinke’s draft proposal for a five-year program for oil and gas development identifies 47 lease areas in the outer continental shelf—two of which are located off Southern California—and undoes safety regulations implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The governors of California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have come out against Zinke’s proposal, as well as nearly 160 municipalities, more than 1,200 local, state and federal elected officials, and an alliance of more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families.
International conservation group Oceana has helped lead the charge. They persuaded Del Mar to pass a resolution in October—making it the first city south of Los Angeles County to do so—and brought out a small fleet of advocates to the Jan. 24 meetings that included Scripps scientists and local environmentalists.
Among them was Ira Opper, the pioneering extreme sports filmmaker based in Solana Beach. He described seeing the 100-square-mile devastation wrought by the 1969 Santa Barbara spill that took a decade to clean up and helped launch the modern environmental movement. In the spill’s aftermath, Opper produced a documentary that included a tour of the failed drilling platform.
The thought of inviting a similar disaster shook him.
“What would be the negative financial, environmental and tourism impacts if we had to look out at the ocean and see the horizon littered with platforms attached to a pipeline headed into one of the lagoons to a storage facility so semi-truck tankers could haul it off to refineries?” Opper asked.
California lawmakers are already moving to make the logistics impossible by introducing legislation that would prohibit new pipelines, piers and other infrastructure from being built in state-controlled waters that sit between the outer continental shelf and the shoreline.
Offshore drilling is a key element in the executive order Trump enacted in April that aims to unleash the economic power of the nation’s untapped energy resources.
But the need to expand fossil fuel supplies no longer exists, said Solana Beach Councilman Dave Zito, especially in relation to the high price he said coastal communities will inevitably pay.
“One of the reasons we live here is to be able to take advantage of the beach. If something happened to that, it would completely destroy us,” Zito said. “… If you combine this with the truly scary thought that one of the other actions that’s going on at the federal level right now is the elimination of the protections and regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill, you’re basically guaranteeing disaster. It’s just a matter of where and when; it’s not a matter of if. So it may not impact Solana Beach but it will destroy some other community at some point in time.”
Solana Beach passed its resolution 4-0, with Mayor Ginger Marshall abstaining on the grounds that offshore drilling is a federal issue that takes time and resources away from city staff.
“I’m here to run the city so I will not be weighing in,” she said.
In Encinitas, several people in the crowd were wearing blue Oceana t-shirts as campaign organizer Brady Bradshaw thanked councilmembers and invited the public to a Feb. 3 rally in Mission Beach. The city council passed its resolution unanimously as a consent item without discussion.
“It’s important that all of us in public positions stand united in opposition to drilling for oil off the California coast,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the unanimous support of the Encinitas City Council. We are an environmentally committed city and this drilling proposal is incompatible with responsible environmental stewardship.”
Federal officials are holding a hearing in Sacramento on Feb. 8, and the public has until early March to comment on the first draft of the five-year plan. There will be another public-comment period once the draft is revised. The three-stage review process is expected to last roughly a year.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign, go to www.oceana.org/ProtectOurCoast.