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Some Concerned Trump Administration May Open Central, South Coasts To New Oil and Gas Development

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This week marks the 48th anniversary of one of the biggest environmental disasters in U.S. history, the 1969 Santa Barbara Channel oil spill.

It was an accident which help jump start the modern environmental movement.

After years of battles to limited new oil and gas development along the Central and South Coasts, and to improve safety measures on existing projects, the environmental community is worried.

Many people are concerned the Trump Administration may open the floodgates to new development.

Linda Krop is Chief Counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center, a longtime watchdog over oil and gas development in the region. While there are existing projects, it’s been decades since there have been major new projects in state and federal waters off the Central and South Coasts. 

Krop says now is the time to be wary. Freshman Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara, representing the region’s 24th Congressional District, has made this his top priority.

The first piece of legislation he’s authored is the California Clean Coast Act, which would permanently ban future offshore oil and gas leasing in federal waters off the state’s coastline.

Carbajal admits the bill faces an uphill battle, with a Republican controlled Congress and a President who is on the record as saying he wants to open more federal lands for development of resources.

Krop says the state has already tried to send the message to Washington, D.C. that it wants to protect its coastline from more oil and gas development, with the governor, the State Coastal Commission, and the State Lands Commission taking strong public stances after last November’s election.

She also says there’s no question the oil industry would be interested if they sensed the federal government would be interested in opening up more areas of our coastline to development. She thinks the community would rise up to fight it.

Krop says one bit of good news is that California’s federal waters aren’t in the current five year federal leasing program. She says if there was an effort to open those waters, it would trigger new reviews and hearings.

Additionally, Krop points out that concern isn’t just over new exploration, but over the possible expansion of existing facilities.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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