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Environmentalists Relieved California Not In New Federal Oil Lease Plans, But Still Worried

Platform Gail off the South Coast

President Trump’s plans to start the process for new offshore oil and gas exploration off parts of the nation sent shock waves through the environmental community. But, when the President actually signed the order, it didn’t include the Central and South Coasts as most had expected.

Linda Krop is with the Environmental Defense Center, which has been battling oil and gas development on the Central and South Coast for four decades. Krop believes the Trump Administration backed off from the West Coast because of fierce opposition ranging from the Governor, to environmental and community groups.

The EDC attorney says even if the Trump Administration later pursues the creation of new oil and gas leases off the Central and South Coasts, there is nothing automatic about them being approved. It’s a long, detailed public process before new leases could be offered.

Even if new leases became an option off our coast, oil and gas industry officials say the high cost of doing business in the state might not make pursuing them worthwhile. Catherine Reheis-Boyd is President of the Western States Petroleum Association. It’s a trade group which represents companies involved in petroleum production in five western states, including California. She says given the current low price of oil, and high cost of doing businesses in California, it might not make sense for companies to pursue leases should they become available.

But she says California only produces 38% of the crude oil to meet state’s needs. She says the state simply isn’t in a position to transition away from petroleum based fuels at this time. The oil industry official says it’s a complex issue, with no simple answers.

For now, though, the environmental community is hopeful they won’t have to re-fight battles they’ve won in the past over proposed new offshore oil and gas leases. Krop says they aren’t taking anything for granted, and are ready to do what they can to block new leasing efforts.

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.