Gov. Brown signs bills to block Trump’s offshore oil drilling plan

Workers try to soak up oil in Santa Barbara Harbor after a devastating spill in 1969 that sparked California's decades-long distaste for offshore drilling.
(Don Cormier / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed two bills that would block new offshore oil drilling in California by barring the construction of pipelines, piers, wharves or other infrastructure necessary to transport the oil and gas from federal waters to state land.

This locks into law the vows of Brown and other state officials who declared earlier this year they would do whatever it takes to stop the Trump administration from opening California waters to drilling on an unprecedented scale.

“Today, California’s message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now,” Brown said in a statement. “We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast.”


Read more: First came the proclamations against Trump’s offshore drilling plan. Now comes the legislation »

Bills AB 1775 and SB 834 prohibit the State Lands Commission, which has jurisdiction over tidelands and waters extending roughly three miles offshore, from granting leases for new pipelines and infrastructure — the most economical way to transport oil and gas to land.

The Senate version of the bill also bans the commission from renewing an existing lease if that action would result in increased oil or natural gas production from federal waters.

A similar Senate bill last year had failed amid pressure from oil and business interests that said stripping the state of this decision-making authority could do more harm than good.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who wrote the Senate bill last year and this year, said she was pleased to see it succeed: “From the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill to the 2015 Refugio spill, I represent a community that knows all too well the devastation oil spills can bring to our economy and environment.”

Polls today show 69% of California residents oppose more drilling off their coast. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates vying to be the next governor have declared that the state’s commitment to block new offshore drilling would not change under their leadership.


Oil and gas production from the state’s tidelands peaked in the 1960s and has been more or less declining ever since. The state has not issued a new offshore oil and gas lease since the devastating 1969 spill in Santa Barbara turned public sentiment against offshore drilling. In 1994, the state Legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibits new leasing in state waters.

Over the decades, governors across party lines, as well as the State Lands and California Coastal commissions have fought off additional offshore drilling — successfully challenging federal efforts in court when necessary.

Read more: Here is where the Trump administration wants to expand offshore oil and gas drilling »

Now, with the Trump administration proposing to open vast areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas exploration and drilling through a leasing program beginning as early as 2019, state leaders say California is waking up to a new reality.

“We are standing up to protect… our state’s entire coast from the threat of more offshore oil drilling and ugly oil rigs,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who wrote the Assembly bill. “I thank Gov. Brown for leading the resistance and Sen. Jackson for working with me to protect our state’s multibillion dollar coastal economy and beautiful beaches and coastline.”


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